Wellington City Council spent $43,000 on an investigation launched by Mayor Tory Whanau into the conduct of five of her councillors.
The cost has been revealed as the council’s budget comes under pressure from more expensive problems like leaking pipes. Residents could potentially face a 15.4 per cent rates increase next year to make up for historical underinvestment in infrastructure.
The code of conduct probe was launched last year after Deputy Mayor Laurie Foon complained her colleagues leaked commercially sensitive information about a deal to buy the land underneath the shut-up Reading Cinema complex on Courtenay Place.
High-profile lawyer Linda Clark was appointed to undertake the review and found there was insufficient evidence to identify who leaked confidential information.
However, she did find councillors Nicola Young, Tony Randle, Ray Chung, Diane Calvert and Iona Pannett breached the council’s code by speaking to the media after information about the deal had been leaked.
Wellington City Council has confirmed the review undertaken by Clark cost $43,000.
Clark’s resulting recommendations were hardly the public telling-off Whanau may have hoped for in a bid to draw a line under simmering tensions.
She recommended a copy of the council’s code of conduct be provided to all councillors for review, training on when it is appropriate to withhold information from the public and a private workshop to discuss the complaint and air grievances.
Councillors Young, Randle, Chung, and Calvert claimed the complaint was an orchestrated attempt by the mayor and deputy mayor to discredit and silence councillors who dared to speak up about significant concerns.
A 2021 governance review of Wellington City Council by Peter Winder said that while the code of conduct process was filled with admirable yet aspirational sentiment, it was entirely lacking in any consequence or meaningful enforcement mechanisms.
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“As a general rule, code of conduct complaints tend to achieve little and do nothing to benefit any of those involved.
“Typically, the greatest loser is the credibility of Council as an entity, at least in the eyes of those paying passing attention to events.”
Winder said there were almost always more positive and constructive ways for differences to be resolved.
Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist.
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