The Police are due to announce the outcome of their investigation into Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne. Bonne was under investigation for election overspending after spending $20,928 on his mayoral campaign – the legal limit is $20,000 – Police also investigated concerns that Bonne did not declare all of his expenditure and some costs were inappropriately written off. From the Whakatane Beacon:
Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Standen, appointed by Eastern Bay police area commander Sandra Venables to investigate the indiscretion, said his completed file went first to Bay of Plenty police headquarters, then national police headquarters to be peer reviewed.
The file had been returned to Detective Inspector Tim Anderson, the Bay of Plenty district crime manager, for him to “finalise the outcome”.
Mr Standen said Mr Anderson was on leave but he believed the investigation was in its “final stages”. Within the next fortnight he expected a result would be announced.
This indicates, to me at least, that a robust investigation has occurred and proper process has been followed. Electoral offences should be treated as crimes – a crime is a crime. More often than not the Police take a relaxed approach to electoral offences. I think it is relevant to restate my thoughts from earlier in the year:
Although the amount overspent is small, a mere $928, it represents a blatant breach of the rules and brings into question the legitimacy of Bonne’s election win. The second placed candidate, former United Future MP Judy Turner, was within 600 votes of Tony Bonne. Did $928 spell the difference between Judy Turner and Tony Bonne? Did undeclared and inappropriately written off expenditure spell the difference between Judy Turner and Tony Bonne? It is impossible to know for sure, however it is conceivable that it did.
Tony Bonne pleads ignorance. He claims that he did not know the limit was GST inclusive. This is a piss poor excuse. The Electoral Commission makes it quite clear that GST is included. Tony Bonne, as a former Mayor, should have at the very least a fair understanding of electoral rules. I find it rather odd that a former elected representative and experienced election campaigner overlooked, or did not know, that the election spending limit is GST inclusive. Is it not prudent and sensible to at least ‘assume’ that the limit is GST inclusive? If you remember National also deployed the ‘GST excuse’ in 2005 and the excuse was just as laughable then as it is now.
Clearly Tony Bonne has breached the rules and, in my opinion, attempted to play the system. There is room for forgiveness if it becomes apparent that it was all an honest mistake. However, if the opposite is true then Tony Bonne must step down. His mayoralty is stained and there is growing feeling that his election win was illegitimate. The people of Whakatane deserved an honest election – sadly they did not receive one.