Rimmington ends High Court action to reclaim Waikato Regional Council chairmanship

Russ Rimmington says he has ended a legal action to reclaim the post of president of his regional council (file).

Tom Lee / Stuff

Russ Rimmington says he has ended a legal action to reclaim the post of president of his regional council (file).

Former Waikato Regional Council President Russ Rimmington has confirmed he has ended legal proceedings to get his old job back, after spending more than $40,000 in legal fees on the case.

The board is also expected to face a hefty bill of more than $100,000, chief executive Chris McLay confirmed.

A High Court hearing into the matter had been set for September 1 in Hamilton.

The central issue was that Rimmington argued Councilor Fred Lichtwark should not have voted against him in a leadership vote in May because he would have had a predetermined opinion.

If he hadn’t participated, there wouldn’t have been enough votes to remove him as president, Rimmington said.

But on Tuesday, Rimmington said he had called it quits.

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He said it was not worth continuing given the limited time between the hearing and the end of the current council’s term before the October election.

The expense of continuing the hearing was another factor in her decision, Rimmington said.

“It’s a cost for the taxpayer and for me.

Regional Councilor Fred Lichtwark says the legal action against him was

Tom Lee / Stuff

Regional Councilor Fred Lichtwark says the legal action against him was “ill-conceived” (file).

Rimmington said it was decided the parties would pay their own legal costs.

He had spent “north” $40,000 personally, though he understood the council would pay his bills and Lichtwark’s. He didn’t know how much the council would end up paying.

He continued to argue on Tuesday that Lichtwark should have disqualified himself from the vote and that he did not regret taking legal action.

“I shed light on what good governance should be. I did it and paid for it.

As to whether his action wasted taxpayers’ money, Rimmington said he took the action after “overwhelming” advice that Lichtwark should not have voted.

He had hoped the action would have been heard much sooner by the High Court as a matter of urgency.

In a statement, Lichtwark said he was happy with legal action against him and the advice was being withdrawn, arguing the whole matter was “ill-conceived”.

“Despite Councilor Rimmington’s allegations, I never pre-determined my position on this and voted at all times based on the best interests of the council and my constituents.”

Both men are running for council again in this year’s election.

McLay said dropping the case was the best outcome at this stage of the legal process, saying “we will save significant costs and other resources by not going to trial.”

But he confirmed the council would still pay a hefty bill saying it would be over $100,000. A final invoice was awaited.

The board was required to cover Lichtwark’s costs unless it was found that it had not acted in good faith.

Elna M. Lemons