Chairman of the embattled Taumarunui Museum Trust (TMT), Weston Kirton is again in the hotseat, as the scandal surrounding the sale of The Memory Bank building and eviction of local Historian Ron Cooke deepens. A secret donation of $50,000.00 from TMT to the fund for the local council-led Railway Station development was revealed in a leaked report as part of a recent million dollar Lotteries Grant application. This leaves the TMT and their trustees in a hugely precarious situation as these misappropriated funds have come from the sale of an asset donated for a specific purpose. TMT and the TMT Trustees are personally now exposed, legally and morally for allocating the funds to a different purpose. I have, yesterday, initiated legal action commencing with notice to the seven TMT Trustees, giving them an option to exonerate themselves from yet another blight on the sorry history of a deeply troubled organisation.
In a previous post I warned of scandal surrounding the sale of The Memory Bank building, claiming that different stories issued at different times to different people indicated deception. My predictions and warning have now been proved valid. Deception has now been proven.
In December 2018 TMT Trustee, Peter Till told me that he wanted some of the funds from building sale to go to the local Repertory Society (recently having produced “The Vicar of Dubley”, billed as a play with nudity); from Weston Kirton [again in 2018] that the funds would go be going to TRACS; the local rag in January 2019 reported Weston Kirton saying that the funds from The Memory Bank Building were all safe [cough, cough] and set aside – that the TMT was going to forge ahead doing ‘fantastic things’ [cough, cough] with some minor historical newspapers they had in storage [cough, cough]; then at a meeting (recorded and fully transcribed in my book) with the two above-mentioned leaders immediately after issuing the statement informing the public what TMT would be doing, that the TMT didn’t know what it was doing, nor did they know what they were going to do, nor how to even move ahead!
Well, spare me days! At least they were honest in one sense. It’s a pretty brave thing to do to admit that you don’t know what to do, especially in a recorded conversation and dealing with an investigative blogger like me. So credit to them for ‘that’ admission.
In the book I called this organisation, “a cesspit of perpetual dysfunction & self interest”. With revelations that indeed the TMT has finally done that which it claimed it hadn’t decided to do, this is now seen to be a highly accurate description.
The TMT was established by local historian Ron Cooke in the late 1980s following a hugely successful magazine series he called “Roll Back the Years”. This series ran throughout the 1980s with his secret being the equivalent to modern day Social Media interaction – engagement – but being done through booklets sent through the post. His booklet series attracted massive support as readers engaged with him discussing and sharing their history & memories. Many of the photos entrusted to him for safe-keeping are still in Cookie’s custody in the current KCET resources.
Initial purchase of The Memory Bank building was enabled through the fund-raising that Cookie personally (and with his son and a large ‘merry band’ of helpers) undertook in the late 1980s. As I shared in the book OFF THE RAILS, a decidedly rocky history followed with fights and serious dysfunction prevalent until the eventual sudden sale of The Memory Bank building in October 2018.
Some in the local community here didn’t appreciate my exposure of the methodology that the TMT used to evict Cookie and his photographic & archive collections, but expose I did, nonetheless. My accurate blogging, a public meeting at my personal expense, publication of the book (again at my personal cost and all proceeds to the man in question) and personal explanations whenever locals sought it were effective, if divisive.
The bottom line however is that the TMT must forever hang their heads in shame at the treatment that they dished out to their “intransigent” founder and visionary. My hat goes off to a man who for more than 30 years knew exactly what he wanted. He did what he had to do and who never, ever, for one minute got bullied into losing what he had spent a lifetime collecting and building up. This all in the face of huge adversity from those who were entrusted to look after him and his resources.
On 14 January 2018, as CEO of KCET, I issued a formal warning to TMT laying claim to the assets received from the sale of The Memory Bank on behalf of the Charitable Trust that now owned the assets (KCET), In this letter, I explained very clearly why s68 of the Trustees Act 1956 applied to this situation. The public had raised funds for a particular purpose . . . the Trustees of the TMT had a legal and moral obligation to use those funds for that purpose, and that in the circumstances that it could be proven that they had misappropriated those funds (or that we as an “interested party” believed that events would arise along those lines) then they and the trustees, personally would be liable.
Basically in simple words, if the public gave money to buy a building to help Cookie house his photos for posterity then it is wrong to boot him and his archives out of that building, then sell it and give it to another pet cause – no matter how worthy that cause may be.
This now, is exactly what has happened, exactly as I predicted and as I warned. Ruapehu District Council now, as intended recipient of $50,000, the bulk of the proceeds from the sale of The Memory Bank building has an ethical and a legal issue too. Do they receive these funds and pocket them, thus risking the potential of court action from KCET to recover what should rightfully have gone to KCET? Let alone the flak that could come from me and others who could claim the higher moral ground saying, “Hang on a minute! What about the resources? Shouldn’t the money that came from the people who funded the whole shebang in the first place go to the people who are still responsible for the whole shebang?” Or do they sit down and solve the problems that Cookie (and the various entities involved in the ownership, storage and use of these assets) currently face?
Sadly for Taumarunui, the current CEO of the Ruapehu District Council and his mayor have proven to me to be tarred with the same brush as the two-faced politicians that I’ve struggled to communicate with from the TMT. I share more details over this sorry saga with the RDC and its fatally flawed Lotto application in my next post.
You heard it from me . . . the Taumarunui Museum Trust has pledged $50,000 (being the bulk of the sale of the proceeds from the sale of The Memory Bank Building) to the RDC’s fund for the multi-million dollar development of the Taumarunui Rail Station into an improved Information Centre-come-museum.
This donation is an immoral and arguably illegal action following in the footsteps of years of dysfunction within TMT, years of disinterest and antipathy towards the key man, Cookie and his collections, and is an unconscionable and conscious act to sideline a man, whom it has been said by those in the know, “[Simply] does not deserve this kind of treatment”.
The leaked report/application was issued in the name of a Northland consultancy firm contracted by the RDC, (Alastair Well’s MWA Solutions). It is a disgrace. Writer, Rick Pearson (Pearson & Associates Architects) refused to discuss the details of the report, referring me to Alastair Wells and the RDC. Alastair gave me a spin and wouldn’t answer my questions. Clive Manley too ignored me for a week, gave me a story that he was getting more information then ignored me, before finally confessing that it was he who did after all authorise its release.
So we now know the intention of the TMT leaders, something that was apparently the intention all along – kick the ‘old man out’ and shuffle the funds from the sale of The Memory Bank into the new council-led multi-million “dream Museum”.
Yeah right! In the next post in this series on King Country Corruption I release the secret application to Lotto and share the details of my own report to Mayor Don Cameron in which I call the RDC Lotto application “fatally flawed” and give details of the most extraordinary encounter I had with the Mayor and CEO, something that should sent a shudder down the spines of any honest right-thinking person interested in the future welfare of this region.
I note here that all are welcome to use and quote from this blog without limit but this use is subject to my simple Terms that if quoted, reference must be made back to the URL of this website (dennis.co.nz).
I will update this post when developments occur, for they surely will, one way or t’other. Thanks for swinging by here today.
King Country Corruption Series
- King Country Corruption 1. TMT Scandal Deepens
- King Country Corruption 2. A Flawed Lotto Application
- King Country Corruption 3. Report on Flawed RDC Lotto Application
- King Country Corruption 4. Behind The Scenes
- King Country Corruption 5. The Solution
- King Country Corruption 6. The Consequences
- King Country Corruption 7. Suing Taumarunui Museum Trust