The Christchurch City Council is under more fire – this time over details about Mayor Bob Parker’s overseas travel spending.
The Star can reveal today that Mr Parker charged $219.25 on his ratepayer funded city council credit card for five servings of Moet et Chandon Brut champagne and a ham and cheese sandwich at the Hyatt Seoul while he was in Korea on council business last year.
The spending on the card was in breach of what he can use his city council credit card, or P (purchasing) card as it is known, for.
The Star only learned about the spending after the receipt was leaked to the newspaper.
In June, The Star requested through the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) all receipts for Mr Parker’s overseas trips since he was re-elected in 2010.
The city council has only supplied receipts for this year, despite ongoing requests to the council’s communications unit, and head of the Mayor’s Office, former Government House staffer Sarah Owen, for a full release of receipts.
The Star is still seeking the receipts for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel said The Star’s issues obtaining information from the city council mirror her own problems.
“I am very sympathetic because I’ve had official information issues with council. I have been chasing information on the red zoning decision and I hit a brick wall.
“The acting chief executive [Jane Parfitt] did step in and now I have it.”
Ms Dalziel said the culture of “avoidance” and “secrecy” within the city council and in their dealings had to stop.
“If elected I will make sure reports are automatically disclosed – no journalist should spend time chasing information which has been requested – whatever system is currently in place needs to go.”
“We need a whole new way to open up council.”
Mr Parker’s spending at the Hyatt was subsequently reimbursed by the Israeli Embassy, but the council is refusing to say who his guests were.
Last week Mr Parker finally answered questions put to him by The Star after weeks of failing to respond to them.
In an emailed statement he told The Star the Seoul costs were for a “private meeting”.
He said he had apologised to staff for using his ratepayer funded credit card.
The Star asked why he had not used his own credit card as policies governing the use of city council credit cards say they can only be used for “valid business purposes”.
Said Mr Parker: “In the circumstances I found myself on, [sic] helped pick up the account knowing the policy, sought to have it immediately reimbursed, and apologised to staff for having to use my P card but had no alternative on that occasion.
“Not ideal, but no costs rested with the ratepayers,” he said.
He said all cost on the trip were “reimbursed by the host – not by council.”
Mr Parker travelled with his wife Jo Nicholls-Parker to Seoul and Israel last May.
He left Korea on May 5 to attend the International Mayors’ Conference in Israel.
He was widely criticised for taking Mrs Nicholls-Parker. Mr Parker ended up paying for the cost of her travel.
The Office of the Ombudsman said they had received 10 complaints for the year ended June 30 about city council LGOIMA requests.
That was down from 22 the previous year.
The New Zealand Herald