Much Ado About Nothing – ‘Stolen’ photo saga resolved after ‘little prank’ at regional council
Stephen Ward / Stuff
The former chairman’s picture of Russ Rimmington was apparently still missing from the area council councilors’ lounge on Thursday, but was located after the disappearance was revealed to be a ‘joke’ involving Rimmington’s rival Fred Lichtwark.
An official photograph of embattled former Waikato Regional Council Chairman Russ Rimmington appears to have been ‘stolen’ from the council chambers.
But, wait, no, it wasn’t – it was all apparently a joke by Rimmington rival Fred Lichtwark, who confessed during Thursday’s council meeting in texts to Things.
The photo’s mysterious disappearance follows a string of recent controversies over Rimmington’s remarks about Maori, numerous public clashes with Lichtwark, his allegation that an alliance of leftist and Maori constituency councilors were responsible for his ousting in as president, and a top recently dropped a court case to get his job back.
Rimmington dropped the explosive reveal about the missing photo to Things ahead of a council meeting on Thursday, claiming someone “nicked” him.
As the meeting began, he interrupted incoming President Barry Quayle to make a statement about the missing photo.
“Someone saw fit to steal my photo in the councillors’ lounge, which I protest.
“And I ask that, if it’s not returned, that you report this or the report of the CEO [this] to the police.
“It’s just that getting stuff stolen from the bedroom here isn’t good and serious enough.”
He joked that some would like his picture like that of Winston Churchill – “some think I look a lot like him or some say Donald Trump”. They could put it above their fireplace.
“But I would like it returned please.”
To which Quayle joked: “A collector’s item, obviously.”
Quayle said the chief executive’s staff were doing an assessment and trying to find out what really happened. The photo seems to have “disappeared” a few days ago.
“So we’re just looking at that.”
But questioned by text during the meeting, Lichtwark admitted his role in things. “No need for police investigation and waste of time and money. I [didn’t] steal his photo.
He then confirmed that he had informed Rimmington and that his picture was back on the wall in the councillors’ lounge on Thursday afternoon.
That the photo was back was confirmed by a council spokesperson.
Ahead of Lichtwark’s big reveal, Rimmington said he wasn’t sure the “disappearance” had anything to do with recent controversies he’s been embroiled in.
These controversies include a lawsuit against Lichtwark which Rimmington later dropped. Taxpayers are paying a final bill of $150,000 for council and Lichtwark costs, according to figures released Thursday. A request for the board to pay Rimmington’s costs was denied.
In addition, the board confirmed additional costs of $22,500 related to the reversal of Rimmington in May.