Waikanae Board Member Geoffrey Churchman Resigns Over ‘Toxic’ Atmosphere

Geoffrey Churchman, editor of Waikanae Watch, says he’s resigning from the Waikanae Community Board following the row over a so-called satirical article ridiculing Kapiti’s Mayor and several women councillors.

Geoffrey Churchman

This, and another article, led to a proposed motion by Cr Jocelyn Prvanov, a board member, to remove Mr Churchman from the board at a meeting next Tuesday — unless he apologised.

Cr Prvanov said : “In (an) article posted on 26 June 2020 ( actual date July 26 — Ed), myself and 4 other female councillors, and several other elected members were portrayed in a highly sexually offensive and demeaning manner with racial overtones.”

Jocelyn Prvanov

Mr Churchman’s reaction

In an email today, Mr Churchman says: “This is to advise you all that on Tuesday I will be handing Chief Executive Wayne Maxwell a letter of resignation from the board effective immediately. 

“The consequence of Cr Prvanov’s action with her offensive, defamatory Notice of Motion and her rejection of mediation have simply now made the culture in the board so toxic with no possibility of it recovering that there is no other way forward. 

Miserable pay’ for ‘time, frustration and grief’

“I feel, as I told Jill ( Jill Griggs, Board deputy chair) yesterday, that the miserable pay for the amount of time, frustration, and now grief that will be entailed is just not worth it.  If it was a councilor’s salary that would be different.

“I have tried with a sincere tete-a-tete with Jill yesterday afternoon and I thank you for that Jill.  I think you are a warm lovely person and I have much appreciated our chats.  That was followed with an attempt at reconciliation with an apology mail to Cr Prvanov last night but it has received no response.”

Message for the Board chair, James Westbury

Mr Churchman also has a sympathetic message for the Waikanae Board chair, James Westbury: “James, I have likewise much appreciated our common minds on almost everything involving Waikanae.

“I think you are intelligent, empathetic and very capable.  If you would like to write a monthly column for Waikanae Watch please do so.

“The other two can guess what I think of them.”

Mr Churchman says ‘it’s extremely unfortunate that things have had to come to this’ but he says he feels that ‘the board’s ability to advance its objectives have been all but rendered inert.’

Warn ing over Gateway ‘anger’ 

“I also feel there will be rising anger in the public in Kapiti about Guru’s Gateway that will waste many millions of dollars in addition to the $500,000 that has already been spent and I want to support the people, not be seen to be part of the council.

“As a co-editor of Waikanae Watch I have also found the strictures that being on the board have imposed to be stifling. Not being on it will free me to be much more critical as I was before.  I know the 1400 Waikanae people who voted for me last October will be disappointed but I will be posting the explanation for them on Wednesday,” he says.

‘Things have been wrecked’

“Last October I stood  for the board because I expected Iride to win the Ward Councilor seat. When that didn’t happen the expected dynamics of the board changed completely. 

“I tried hard for things to work well, and up until last week they largely were. Now things have been wrecked.

“The board’s emasculated functions will remain that way under the present mayor, who has never had any interest in further empowerment.  He, also by the way, has no interest in the Waikanae library.

“I will be talking with lawyers on Monday about the abuses by the council under the Human Rights Act and the Local Government Act and of course, the Defamation Act in the case of Cr Prvanov.

“Under the Local Elections Act there will be a by-election required for the seat vacancy. I hope that there will be a good replacement, but it was so hard last year to find candidates for our ticket that I feel that won’t be the case.”

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