24 Jan 2013

Southland council chair survives vote after prank

8:50 pm on 24 January 2013

The chairperson of the Southland regional council is vowing she is here to stay after winning her job back by a narrow vote.

Ali Timms has been on paid leave for six weeks since it emerged that she made a prank call to Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt on a live talkback show on local television pretending to be a struggling mother.

Ali Timms says she won't be making any more prank calls.

Ali Timms says she won't be making any more prank calls. Photo: RNZ

Council members met on Thursday morning and passed a vote of confidence in Ali Timms by 7 votes to 5, with the majority saying the unacceptable lapse of judgement should not be a hanging offence.

In an unusual twist, Ms Timms was able to vote in her own support, based on legal advice.

She apologised publicly for her prank call on Thursday, but said her opponent councillors seized upon her mistake for political gain - and she's not leaving.

"I make mistakes all the time - I'm human, we all are. But I think when you weigh up this one mistake against the good work that I know that I've done for the last two years there's a balance there, and I still think I'm the right person for the job."

Councillors who voted against Ali Timms say she has brought the council into disrepute. They include Jan Riddell who said she should have saved its reputation by standing down for good.

However, supporters say she has been one of the best leaders they have ever had, including deputy chairperson Nicol Horrell who believed Ms Timms deserved a second chance.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt says a vote of confidence is unusual and local people were disturbed by the deception involved, but he is willing to put the incident behind him and happy to keep working with Ms Timms.

"I've found her in general to work with a very sensible and astute person. It's certainly out of character what she did, so I think I'm just as puzzled by it as probably most of the people she works with."

Mr Shadbolt says it is now up to voters whether she continues to be on the council after the election in October this year.

Ali Timms says she is good at learning from her mistakes and won't be making any more prank calls.