Animal advocacy group WATCHDOG! has called on Napier City Council chief executive Wayne Jack to resign.
This request has come in the midst of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ investigation into allegations levelled at council by the advocacy group that the local body had breached the Animal Welfare Act 1999 on several occasions.
Mr Jack was contacted for comment via his communications team one of who said she would pass along News Collective’s request, but at the time of publication the chief executive had not responded.
However, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said this is exactly what he would expect from the advocacy group.
“WATCHDOG! is just being absolutely ridiculous and quite frankly I treat their call for the resignation of the chief executive of Napier [City Council] with contempt,” he said.
“In fact, WATCHDOG! is acting totally irresponsibly, they are unaware of the facts.
“If they simply got positive about things then the whole place would be a lot better.”
However, WATCHDOG! Chair Jessica Maxwell stood by her group’s call saying it was Jack’s choice to “deny, deny, deny” from the moment her organisation first raised concerns about alleged mismanagement of the pound last August.
She said the chief executive has stated publicly in the media that a review wasn’t needed, concerns raised about the pound were unfounded and that NCC’s policies are sound.
Maxwell said “obviously” the Ministry saw it differently, conducting not one, but two investigations into WATCHDOG!’s allegations.
“These issues would never have come to light if WATCHDOG! hadn’t taken the matter beyond the NCC to MPI and asked the Ministry to assess the matter,” she said.
“The fact that they have also conducted an audit of the pound is a bonus, because we only asked the Ministry to look into the alleged animal welfare breaches.”
She said the first report produced by the Ministry, one based on an audit of the pound which is due to be released this week, has identified a number of items council needed work on.
Jack said, via a December 23 press release on the audit report, that council was already working on these areas, and shortfalls identified by the report were taken for immediate action.
“The recommendations made in the report are sensible and achievable, and most were already being worked towards under our new management structure when the inspector visited us,” he said at the time.
However, Maxwell said that as CE, Jack has to take responsibility for this situation - adding that the public will not put up with an allegedly mismanaged pound.
She said beyond the Ministry’s investigations, there have been other reasons why her group want Jack to stand down.
Reasons such as the departures of two animal control officers in the last six months which Maxwell said were seemingly symptomatic of a wider problem at the council – one, that was highlighted by NCC’s staff association last year.
In September, the Dominion Post reported that the association was up in arms over a $29,000 pay rise given to Jack, who they say has reduced the organisation's morale to "an all-time low".
At the time the association was reported as saying that the staff “realignment” saw the resignation of key and experienced managers in areas such as wastewater, drinking water and roading, which had led to a sharp increase in consultancy fees.
Moreover, it was reported that both the association and individual staff members had brought an “unprecedented” number of personal grievances against NCC.
More recently, Maxwell said, the council has been shown to hand over incorrect information to a regulatory body.
This latest event was revealed in an Advertising Standards Authority decision made on a complaint laid by NCC communications manager Fiona Fraser, on behalf of council, against WATCHDOG! over an advert it placed in a local newspaper.
Initially council said that no dogs were euthanised at the pound.
However, when questioned further about this by the ASA, the NCC said that dogs were euthanised at the pound from “time to time” and “always by a registered vet ”.
Maxwell said it was unacceptable that council staff provide factually incorrect information to a regulatory body.