In a rare move, the Kapiti Coast District Council has voted by a majority to censure one of its Councillors.
Councillor Jackie Elliot has been admonished for breaching the Elected Members’ Code of Conduct.
But two councillors, K Gurunathan and Tony Lloyd, refused to join the other councillors and Mayor Ross Church in the move against Cr Elliott.
Cr Gurunathan said: “This is a wet bus ticket that has cost ratepayers $15,000!”
Councillor Murray Bell initiated the complaint.
And the censure vote followed an investigation by an independent panel into alleged breaches of the Code after the complaint was lodged by Councillor Bell.
It cited three cases: One related to Councillor Elliot’s conduct toward fellow Councillors and another concerned conduct toward staff. The third related to a press release issued by Cr Elliot.
The Panel’s decision presented to today’s Council meeting by chair, lawyer Peter Chemis, found Councillor Elliot breached the Code when she sent a letter to Councillor Diane Amundsen in which she used the words ‘loathsome’ and ‘vindictive’.
A second breach was found relating to an email Cr Elliot sent to a staff member. This, the panel determined, ‘failed to show appropriate courtesy and respect and was aggressive.’
While Councillor Elliot was found to have committed two breaches of the Code of Conduct, she was censured only for her conduct in relation to the staff member.
Mayor Ross Church said he was sad to find himself having to vote on censuring a Councillor but he said he was doing it on behalf of staff.
He said: “People who know me know I stand very strongly against any form of bullying and I will not tolerate it. Some people have referred to this matter as ‘trivial’. It is not trivial for the people who are hurt by it and can’t defend themselves.”
Councillor Bell told the meeting that he lodged the complaint reluctantly, but felt there was a pattern of behaviour that needed to be addressed.
“Because we are politicians it doesn’t give us a right to talk in an aggressive way, to be obnoxious or to bully people,he said.
“This is our workplace. For all the staff here, this is their workplace and I just don’t believe that bullying should be acceptable in the work place.”
Councillor Gurunathan said he felt the matter could have been handled in-house without a formal investigation and he referred to the formal censure as ‘a wet bus ticket that has cost ratepayers $15,000.’
Councillors voted to censure Councillor Elliot for breaching clause 5.3 of the Code of Conduct. Councillors Gurunathan and Lloyd voted against the recommendation.