Defamation Case Costs

KCDC District Cr Mike Cardiff

Councillor ‘surprised’ by amount of insurance excess costs in Mayoral Court case

By Alan Tristram

The vexed question of who pays out for a defamation case brought against Kapiti’s Mayor K Gurunathan continues to surprise even a sitting councillor.

Mayor Gurunatha — facing court case
Late this week KIN approached Districtwide  Councillor Mike Cardiff for his opinion. Cr Cardiff says:
‘Councillors were made aware of the defamation case against the Mayor.
( Waikanae couple Vince and Raechel Osborne are suing Mayor Gurunathan over remarks about their antique hedge bordering Te Moana Road, near Waikanae Beach).

View of the controversial hedge before trimming work.

Cr Cardiff adds:’The correspondence concerning this has been between the Obsornes and the Mayor and this has not been made available to Councillors.

‘But what I can tell you is that this is issue is now in the hands of Council insurers. ‘
“I was surprised to learn that the Council excess for a defamation suit is $10,000 — I learnt that from the press.’

Background facts

 The row centres over claims the Mayor allegedly defamed Raechel and Vince Osborne in the dispute over their macrocarpa hedge adjoining Te Moana Road.

On January the 11th, the KCDC said: “Should the Osbornes claim be successful, costs associated with this matter will be covered by the Council’s insurer.

“The Council has insurance cover that responds to defamation claims.”

KIN understands Mayor Gurunathan is being sued for more than $50,000, and costs — as well as a full apology — for allegations he made in print and on the radio.

Clarification required on various fronts.

Is the$10,ooo excess for each and every claim or just the first one?

Why was the chair of the Audit and Risk Committee not informed by the Mayor of the progress of his deformation case but had to find out through staff including an item on the agenda, presumably without the chair’s knowledge (do staff not discuss the agenda with the chair beforehand?) and why only learn the quota of the excess through the press?

Is this OPENNESS TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY at work? I think not! Or is it a coverup?

Do ratepayer taxes pay for the excess? What budget does it come out of?

What costs can be picked up by the “insurers?

What are these costs?

Does this include staff costs as well as the lawyers costs?

Does Council not self insure?

Is this OPENNESS TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY at work? I think not! Or is it a coverup? Is this a case of Trump like reality and unreality or just ‘fake news’?

Bottom line is a public apology by the Mayor would resolve this issue, save a lot of wasted time not to mention grief to all parties.

The more the Mayor, Councilors and Council staff prevaricate and spin the facts the more questions will get asked.

Is the Mayor’s arrogance a block to progress?

The other likely cost to Ratepayers is that if the insurers think Mayor Guru is likely to cause further such lawsuits, they may well put the insurance premium up.

Without knowing how their insurance works, it’s hard to say for sure, but as usual the council isn’t keen on volunteering this information. “Open, transparent and democratically accountable” — yeah, right.