What conflict!

October 8th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sir ’s partner was paid more than $170,000 to resolve a property dispute for the Wellington City Council, which was unaware she was also being paid by developers planning to build on the land.

Documents released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show the council engaged to secure a sale and purchase of 2 Lambton Quay.

The site of the former Cecil Hotel was acquired by the Government during World War II to house US troops, but the Edmonds family fought a protracted legal battle against the Crown and the council to win it back in 2005 and 2006.

Council chief executive Garry Poole told The Dominion Post the council was left in a weak position on land needed for the capital’s transport system, with owners who had refused to negotiate with it.

Sir Ngatata, the Tenths Trust chairman, approached Mr Poole in May 2007, believing he could use his good relationship with the Edmonds “as a means of ending the stalemate”.

He proposed Ms Skiffington be engaged as a lead negotiator to strike a deal between the Edmonds family and the council, which would cover her costs, at $350 an hour.

Mr Poole said the council believed she worked as a lawyer for the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Over the following six months she filed three invoices totalling $154,350 plus GST.

The invoices show the council was charged for dozens of meetings between Ms Skiffington and members of the Tenths Trust, as well as property developers, who at the same time were paying her to progress plans to build an office tower on the Lambton Quay site.

That’s a win-win – for Ms Skiffington.

He proposed Ms Skiffington be engaged as a lead negotiator to strike a deal between the Edmonds family and the council, which would cover her costs, at $350 an hour.

Mr Poole said the council believed she worked as a lawyer for the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Over the following six months she filed three invoices totalling $154,350 plus GST.

$350 an hour is around what lawyers cost. But that suggests 441 hours of work on the negotiations – for one site. That is 11 weeks out of 26 spent on nothing but that one negotiation.

The invoices show the council was charged for dozens of meetings between Ms Skiffington and members of the Tenths Trust, as well as property developers, who at the same time were paying her to progress plans to build an office tower on the Lambton Quay site.

If the same meeting was charged at the same rate to both clients (we do not know if this is the case), then there could be issues.

Documents released by the council show Mr Poole had reservations about invoices Ms Skiffington sent him detailing the work she was charging for, with no certainty of how long the negotiations would take.

Twice he wrote directly to Sir Ngatata requesting an estimate of what the total cost of the negotiations would be.

“I have approved the Skiffington invoice without this cost estimate but it is clear this still needs to happen so that both parties can assess our respective commitments as we go forward,” Mr Poole wrote.

So it was an open-ended commitment.

Last week Mr Poole said that at the time the deal was struck he was unaware Sir Ngatata and Ms Skiffington were in a personal relationship but it would not have stopped him hiring her.

But it should have been disclosed as it was material.

He was also unaware that Ms Skiffington had a $3 million consultancy deal with a group funded by Auckland property developers Redwood and financiers Equinox. This included paying her to progress plans for an office tower on the Lambton Quay site.

“I did not know that was happening. We did not know that,” Mr Poole told The Dominion Post.

It appears Ms Skiffington’s arrangement with the council on the Lambton Quay site was also unknown to developers.

“It’s news to me,” Equinox partner Kerry Knight told The Dominion Post on Friday.

And that should have been disclosed also. I have no idea about the legality of this (I note the SFO are investigating) and am not suggesting it is illegal. But I do believe that non-disclosure to be unethical.

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39 Responses to “What conflict!”

  1. tvb (4,430 comments) says:

    I think the law society might need to look at this assuming a complaint gets made.

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  2. Manolo (13,837 comments) says:

    Will the brown elite be ever found accountable? The dishonest Skiffington should pay the price for her double-dealings.

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  3. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    How much is the salary that this guy POOLE gets for efficiency.?
    Isn’t this the same woman involved from memory in selling the air above the Railway Station.?

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  4. Paulus (2,632 comments) says:

    Of course these are Honourable people – who could suggest otherwise ?
    They could never screw the Tax/Ratepayers for their own advantage.
    Must be full of Taniwha.

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  5. Peter (1,713 comments) says:

    Sounds legit.

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  6. peterwn (3,275 comments) says:

    backster – Gary Poole was unaware of the ‘double’ interest – he has been regarded as ‘excellent value’ by councillors over the years and well worth his salary, although it appears some seem to consider he has reached his ‘best by’ date judging by the Council’s agreed process in re-advertising the position (as Councils must do each 5 years). The Council was between a rock and a hard place on this one with respect to the bus terminal land and it appears he snared the best possible deal in the circumstances. WCC might be able to get some of this back if she can be nailed for wrong doing.

    It needs to be remembered too, that top notch CEO’s do not grow on trees, and are worth many times their salaries to employers. IMO Gary has been the most effective Wellington City Council CEO over the last 30-40 years. The City functions far more efficiently than it has in the past (eg fewer water leaks, more tickets per parking warden per day, etc).

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  7. Chris2 (766 comments) says:

    Skiffington obviously follows the Barry Hart model of client charging.

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  8. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    Sort of explains her tax problem.

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  9. Manolo (13,837 comments) says:

    Q.How much is the salary that this guy POOLE gets for efficiency?
    A.His annual salary is a paltry $419,230.

    Q.Isn’t this the same woman involved from memory in selling the air above the Railway Station?
    A. The one and the same crook.

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  10. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    It never ceases to amuse me how people who should know better ignore conflicts of interest disclosure and transperancey. We really do have a little corrupt society and its mainly those at the top end who use their positions and contacts to get away with the most appalling behaviour.

    Fact is there is little in the way of good ethics with these people. Skiffington and Sir Ngatata are typical of the corrupt people who infest our society and should be treated with upmost contempt.

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  11. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    The CEO should have done due diligence and got Skiffington to sign a standard form disclosure document which in part should have aksed her to set out any other parties she was acting for that may be related to the matter in hand.

    This is governance 101. You ALWAYS get a statement signed so you know where you stand and if the signer lies then you have them by the balls and can take them to Court at a later date if necessary.

    Good Grief. Sounds like the CEO fall down badly on this one. If he stuffed this up what else has he stuffed up that the Mayor and Council dont know about.

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  12. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    One suspects that it may be “watch this space” when it comes to DomPost disclosures about Ms Skiffington and Mr Love. They appear to have tumbled onto fertile ground with this series of stories started when the two Lower Hutt accountants were sentenced to 8 years for tax fraud.

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  13. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Will the brown elite be ever found accountable? The dishonest Skiffington should pay the price for her double-dealings.

    I understand Ms Skiffington is Pakeha.

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  14. Viking2 (11,488 comments) says:

    It may not be illegal, but I suspect it is, but it’s almost certainly unethical. almost akin to secret commisions.

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  15. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    If I were a CEO, and I awarded a contract of this magnitude without watertight conflict of interest provisions, I would expect to be sacked. Contracting 101.

    But then I guess its only public money and they can just put the rates up a bit.

    Far, far, far too much of this kind of basic incompetence in the public sector.

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  16. redeye (629 comments) says:

    Q.How much is the salary that this guy POOLE gets for efficiency?
    A.His annual salary is a paltry $419,230.

    The Wellington Town Clerk gets paid more than the Prime Minister? No wonder rates are what they are.

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  17. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    You wana see Tony Marryotts salary…town clerk of Christchurch, over 500K from memory..he is so worth every cent…not

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  18. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    Skimmington skims again!

    God bless the Maori aristocracy. You know they deserve every cent of tax/ratepayer’s money they receive.

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  19. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    At RRM – skiffington is pakeha – does she still deserve every cent?

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  20. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    i bet she ‘identifies’ as maori, which is the only requirement to be one.

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  21. Paul Marsden (998 comments) says:

    anakereiti (2) Says:

    October 8th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
    At RRM – skiffington is pakeha – does she still deserve every cent?

    Yeah, but she still gets a bit of Maori in her from time to time, I would expect.

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  22. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    @anakereiti

    slow news day over at John Ansells blog…you’re normally over there polluting the place.

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  23. Nostalgia-NZ (5,220 comments) says:

    Clearly Mr Poole didn’t do his job correctly. I can imagine anybody in business would so willingly employ somebody without knowing what the framework of the arrangement was and having it in writing. I can imagine even less a willingness to pay invoices such as those presented to Council with about the big what the f… is this for – we’re not paying it.

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  24. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    oh how quaint Paul, havent heard that before.
    @liarbors – you must have lost ah – and still bitter too

    dont hate me cos Im right, liabors

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  25. Griff (7,804 comments) says:

    Is anakereiti the thing that was claiming 200,000 Maori pre contact and only 700 killed in the musket wars on ansells blog?
    Nutter alert

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  26. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    Actually Griff, you didnt read my post correctly did you? maybe we could add “stupid alert” for you ah?

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  27. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    Im hardly a “thing” griff – so please tell me, what I could possibly have done to offend you in such a way that you feel the need to refer to me as a “thing” and “nutter alert”, (when your the one who obviously cant read a post)

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  28. Prince (107 comments) says:

    This is extortion from Love, and incompetence from Poole. Old-boy mafia in operation. ‘Pay my partner $200K and we’ll sort it’. No sign of process or contestability. It stinks, and I’m ashamed to live in the city with this level of corruption. Mayor Daley or Nucky Johnson (aka Thompson in Boardwalk Empire) had nothing on this character.

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  29. Griff (7,804 comments) says:

    Question mark …. my punctuation is not the best but it is there. If that was you your history is as bad as Celtic pre maori :lol:
    “tit for tat” – well if Im supplying the “tit” someone else is coming up with the “tat”. And I dont think Im the only “bigoted buffoon” on here, am I? Or is it my form of bigotry you cant deal with. Everyone elses bigotry is OK?. You might just have to suck it up –
    so suck away

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  30. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    Thats not the pist you initially described is it Griff? Aah so you have no reason for describing me as a thing . Is it because I have opposing views? Couldnt be noone is that childish are they? Yay punctuation lessons. Are we doing grammar as well? :)

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  31. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    @Griff

    yup…nutter alert

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  32. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    Aw cute Griff you got back up with liarbors…

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  33. Reid (16,509 comments) says:

    Notice how the MSM has simply reported these rorts as and when they appear. There seems to be little follow up, no background pieces. Sure, when they do report it it is front page, but imagine how many column inches would already have been written and broadcast across all media if this was say, a pakeha captain of industry who’d done precisely the same thing. Sainsbury and Campbell would have been having empty chair episodes left, right and centre, wouldn’t they. For example.

    But no, none of that. None of that, at all. I wonder if the MSM sub-editors, editors and publishers recognise the precedent they’re setting here, and whether or not they’ll recognise it as a precedent, next time they get onto a similar story committed by someone who’s not married to a komatua.

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  34. KH (695 comments) says:

    q. Who counted the hours charged ?
    Also. How long before Poole resigns ? If it’s longer than 48 hours then the Mayor needs to go as well.

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  35. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    KH, I think you’d find this happened when the previous Mayor was in place. But it amazes me how willing people are to turn a blind eye to known dodgy dealers because they are well connected or elite of some sort or another!

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  36. KH (695 comments) says:

    Good point Anthony. This fiasco happened in the time of the last Mayor. Kerry Prendergast ??
    But also the current mayor is the employer of the CEO. And has the job of holding the CEO to account anyway.
    So the current Mayor needs to act immediately. And if not, then the current Mayor needs to go too.

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  37. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    anakereiti – did you notice who her “partner” in life is?

    As I said – Maori aristocracy – growing rich and fat off their tax- and ratepaying serfs. And OH how they deserve it eh?

    But you probably think the reason many Whiteys are unsupportive of the Treaty Settlements is because they are simply racist, yeah…?

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  38. anakereiti (15 comments) says:

    What on earth does her partner have to do with any of her yet to be proven criminal actions or actions at all? She is not Maori aristocracy –
    Why do you refer to yourself as “whitey” , I think many pakeha are unsupportive of Treaty Settlements because of their total lack of Tiriti knowledge or a lack of knowledge of their own countries history. Nothing to do with being racist.

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  39. Prince (107 comments) says:

    You are all missing the point, in a rush to see this in racial terms.
    Skiffington is not Maori – move on.

    The significant concern lies with Wgton City Council’s lack of integrity and process in gifting $200K to a ‘mate’ to make a problem go away. No deliverables before payment or during invoicing period, no contestability for the work. The money wasn’t delivered in a brown paper bag, but may as well have been.

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