Ombudsman calls on Attorney General to sue Christchurch City Council

Stuff reports:

The is calling on the country’s top law officer, the Attorney-General, to launch enforcement proceedings against the over its continued refusal to release the cost of a touch wall in its new library.

Despite the instructions of the Ombudsman more than a month ago, the council is still to make the cost public.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier​ said he was disappointed the council had failed to release the cost within the timeframe required under the law.

“My role as a watchdog for Parliament is to make sure official information law is not undermined by agencies ignoring their public duty when it arises. I take any breach of public duty extremely seriously. I do not have enforcement powers myself so I am referring the case to the Solicitor-General.”

He said he has written asking that the Attorney-General, David Parker, consider issuing enforcement proceedings against the council. …

Ombudsman Leo Donnelly told the council on May 31 it should make public the cost of the digital and touch walls at the new library Tūranga, after it declined the Taxpayers’ Union’s request for the information. The council had up to 21 working days after the date of the recommendation to consider whether to do so or not.

The Christchurch City Council is flouting the law, having ignored the ruling by the Ombudsman. The Attorney-General needs to uphold the authority of the Ombudsman and start action against the Council, despite it being led by his former Labour Party colleague.

Dalziel has not spoken to media about the touch wall cost, but a council spokeswoman earlier said the decision sat with the staff project team and was within the library budget.

A lot of people at the Council could be in trouble over this. The states that the public duty imposed on the local authority to comply with the Ombudsman is imposed not just on the local authority, but also:

  • every member, officer, and employee of that local authority to whom that recommendation is applicable
  • every body within that local authority to whom that recommendation is applicable
  • every statutory officer to whom that recommendation is applicable

Christchurch residents should be asking their Councillors why they are allowing their Council to flout the law and ignore the Ombudsman.

Ratepayers who paid for the “digital and touch walls” deserve to know how much they cost. The Ombudsman has said they have a right to know. What is the Council hiding by refusing to comply?

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