Public row in Levin as Councillors try to sack Deputy Mayor
By KIN Local Govt. correspondent Jeremy Smith
Horowhenua has a new deputy mayor- but he’s the old one Ross Campbell!
A long and noisy, sometimes bitter, meeting of the Horowhenua District Council yesterday, including a karakia from
one councillor, saw Campbell dumped as the deputy by a vote of six to two then promptly reinstated by district mayor Michael Feyen.
Feyen overrode the councillors’ 6-2 vote for Councillor Wayne Bishop, saying the Act dealing with the selection of deputy mayor gave him power to do this.
Legal ruling sought
But Cr Campbell better not get too comfortable in his old/new role. Mayor Feyen said he and the Horowhenua CEO would immediately start looking for a legal ruling which might justify his decision.
The Local Government Act gives mayors the power to select the deputy but it also says councillors can also vote to remove a deputy and vote on one of their choice. This was the process followed at Levin on Wednesday.
The packed meeting saw members of the public spilling out of the council chamber into the main reception area.
The tension reflected events going back three years when Feyen and Campbell were two dissenting and controversial members of the Horowhenua Council.
October’s local elections saw Feyen beat sitting mayor Brendon Duffy while Campbell was re-elected for another
Feyen and Campbell made headlines when they refused to go into the council HQ in Levin, saying they did not accept engineers’ reports on its safety.
The afternoon meeting started with the usual public forum which most speakers opposing the move to dump the deputy.
One quoted the bible from St Mathew about not judging other people.
Another suggested Horowhenua was looking at a “Kaipara solution” with commissioners having to take over the council. (The Dargaville-based council ended up under Commissioners after a cost blowout relating to sewerage at the beach settlement of Mangawhai.)
Applause from supporters
The public submitters from the pro-Campbell side were greeted with clapping and cheers.
The anti-Campbell side had to wait until the councillors themselves spoke.
Councillor Christine Mitchell said she could not trust Campbell as deputy mayor- he had posted videos online suggesting businesses had received financial advantages from council associations.
He had also published information about council which was either deliberate or misleading and supplied information to reporters which was misleading.
The strongest clapping came when councillor Barry Judd said Campbell had publicly accused him of corruption and insider trading..
Levin-based councillor Bernie Wanden said Campbell had turned Horowhenua district into a circus.
But if councillors thought they were on track to dump their deputy-mayor they received a surprise.
Mayor Feyen said regardless of the vote he would then reinstate Campbell. He said he appointed Campbell as deputy because he was the only councillor in the previous three years “who gave me the time of day”.
The vote itself was complicated when Councillor Piri Tukapua, said she wanted to nominate Victoria Kaye-Simmonds.
But the final vote was clear- a decisive majority wanted Wayne Bishop as Horowhenua deputy mayor.
Asked if the process would involve expensive QCs and a possible judicial review, Mayor Feyen said he did not know. But he said the law governing the deputy appointment “was an ass”.
And a final note- the references to corruption came for material posted on a Facebook page. Dangerous stuff “social” media.
And while the usual range of movies was screening in Levin yesterday the best show in town was down at the council- it was free … and you got tea and biscuits.