Defamation case bill exceeds $15,000

2:30 pm on 22 August 2023

By Ellen Curnow of The Westport News

Buller mayor Jamie Cleine

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

A defamation case taken by West Coast Regional Councillor Frank Dooley against Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine has so far cost Buller ratepayers more than $15,000.

The Dooley versus Cleine case first came before the Westport District Court on 5 August last year.

Figures released to The Westport News under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) show the Buller District Council (BDC) had since incurred $15,355 in legal costs.

The actual cost of the defamation case is likely to be much higher because the case is being covered by BDC's professional indemnity insurance.

The LGOIMA response said the insurer was paying the lawyer representing Cleine directly. Asked for clarification on how much the insurer had paid, BDC chief financial officer Douglas Marshall said the council didn't hold that information.

The legal costs BDC had incurred were for initial legal advice, he said.

A further $1888.41 (GST inclusive) had been spent on travel and accommodation related to the case. No record of staff time had been kept, the LGOIMA response said.

Marshall said the council's insurance had an excess of $25,000 and costs up to that amount would be met by council.

The Westport District Court has confirmed the case is awaiting scheduling for a hearing date.