The Councillors Doth Protest Too Much!

Who is writing the script for Napier City Council these days?

It seems part Shakespeare, part George Orwell, with maybe even a touch of farce, or even Franz Kafka.

There certainly appear to be a lot of actors – An Acting Mayor, Acting Deputy Mayor and an Acting CEO.

There is also a lot of strutting and fretting upon the council and electioneering stage in reaction to what could readily be described as “Big Brother”- like activity from council management.

Napier’s Acting Mayor, Faye White, last week criticised her fellow Napier City Councillors for voicing their criticism and concern to media after it was revealed council management ordered the trawling of social media profiles of councillors who were opposed to the development of the Prebensen Drive pool complex in what appears an attempt find possible breaches of the council’s contentious Elected Members’ Code of Conduct.

How did the Acting Mayor air her opinion on the matter?

By criticising those fellow councillors in the media!

Acting Deputy Mayor Claire Hague had done similarly in an earlier August Talking Point that not only echoed the Code of Conduct, but also did the exact thing she was criticising her fellow councillors for – “publicly criticising (our council staff, not to mention the mayor and) other councillors”!

“These actions go a long way to eroding the level of trust and confidence that our community has in the council” she claimed.

But then went on to say, “Real or perceived errors in our work need to be discussed and remedied in private”.

Secrecy, this perceived “gagging” Code of Conduct, and a lack of transparency and public representation in council business have been major issues in Napier politics for years!

Discussing or remedying errors involving public money, public representation, or public facilities should NEVER be done in private!

THAT is what has eroded public trust in this council – potentially beyond repair.

If councillors are basing their votes upon incorrect, or potentially biased information who is in the wrong?

Those who have mis-represented data, or those who merely rubber-stamp everything put before them without doing their own due diligence, first?

Anyone with a thread of moral fibre must put accountability to the public they serve before their own dignity in these cases.

“Sorry” isn’t the hardest word and “denial” isn’t a river in Egypt.

Interestingly Councillor Keith Price claims the EMCC prevented him from going ahead with an interview regarding pollution in Pandora Estuary recently. “The (possible) breach being described that it may give me, as an incumbent councillor, an unfair advantage over those seeking new election.”

So, as the incumbent (“currently holding office”) Acting Mayor and Acting Deputy Mayor don’t these published opinion pieces criticising those standing for office (neither White, nor Hague are seeking re-election) breach NCC’s Code of Conduct?

Or would that only apply if they had voted against the Prebensen Drive pool?

White “would rather wait until I have all the relevant facts in front of me before deciding on next steps” in relation to what must quickly be becoming a serious employment issue between the democratically elected council and their sole employee – the council’s CEO, who council management and staff report to.

But where will she get these facts?

From the same people who recommended the Napier War Memorial needed renovating, its memorial elements gutted and packed away into a shed at the council’s Austin Street depot while the Eternal Flame is sheltered by what looks like a rubbish tin lid?

From those who said Napier Skating Club did not have the “operational expertise” to be involved in running what would become “Bay Skate” despite 61 years of NSC operation?

Hopefully not from those who caused the Friends of the Onekawa Aquatic Centre to lose faith “in council’s ability to negotiate a fair settlement out of court. After weeks of poor communication, misinformation and obstruction.”

Or those who seem so determined to have a new pool complex at Prebensen Drive, despite overwhelming public support for a 50-meter pool at the current Onekawa site prior to the 2018 Long Term Plan consultation, that they will apparently search through social media for anything to try and undermine the elected representatives who oppose it?

Maybe Napier’s Acting Mayor should pay more attention to the suggestions of “outside commentators”, rather than just dismissing them.

In 2017 Mayor Bill Dalton warned that “Napier City could be the first council destroyed by social media”.

Few could have predicted how prophetic those words would turn out to be!

They weren’t related to this most recent issue, but rather in relation to public criticism of an email obtained by media in which the Mayor encouraged councillors to support CEO Wayne Jack’s reapplication for his position, despite the recruitment agency overseeing the process receiving a number of applications for the CEO role.

This call to action prompted an unsuccessful complaint to the Office of the Auditor General that it gave the impression of bias, or predetermination – something not allowed in local governance – in the council’s CEO selection process.

Jack was reappointed CEO by the council soon after.

At that time, in her role as Deputy Mayor, Faye White spoke of her sadness that “the mayor can’t send a confidential email to his councillors” without it being leaked, saying “When the trust goes … it’s never quite the same.”

Indeed.

Napier deserves better!

 

*A copy of this post appeared as a “Talking Point” in Hawke’s Bay Today on Thursday 5 September 2019*

1 thought on “The Councillors Doth Protest Too Much!

  1. I am frustrated beyond belief with the council. Why do we even bother electing councillor’s when it appears that the CEO is running the show it is certainly a case of the tail wagging the dog.

    We elect people to make the tough decisons however with the group of Councillors we have we just go around the mulberry bush. I believe we had a lost opportunity to merge with Hastings but it appeared former Mayor Dalton was great proponent of playing the man not the ball.

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