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Code of conduct complaint against councillor upheld




5 Sept, 2022


A Facebook post by a Kaipara councillor regarding alleged tampering of the recording of a council meeting has seen mayoral candidate Cr Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock facing a Code of Conduct complaint from two Kaipara District Council staff members.

The complaints were received by KDC chief executive Louise Miller on July 8 and were managed in line with KDCs Code of Conduct (CoC) including being referred to a council-approved independent investigator, who upheld the complaints and found that del la Varis-Woodcock had breached the CoC and that the breach was material – menaing a major violation of the terms of a contract causing adverse harm to a party involved.

The independent investigator provided recommendations for the council to consider which were up for consideration at the August 31 council meeting.

Councillors expressed their concern about the complaint, especially in regard to staff safety, and damage to their professionalism and reputation, as well as the consequences of councillors using social media. They also extended apologies to the two staff involved.

Cr Wills stated that people outside the council organisation possibly do not understand the imbalance of power within council walls.

“It’s a real old-fashioned setup, staff aren’t allowed to use our first names, they have to call us ‘councillor’ or the mayor ‘his worship’, we don’t have a beer with them after work like in the normal corporate world where I came from,” he says. “It’s important to understand the apology is one of the few ways staff get to readdress this imbalance of power.”

In response to mayor Smith’s questions regarding the timing and commonalty of CoC complaints brought by council staff, especially in pre-election year against a mayoral candidate, KDC general manager Jason Marris, who has a lengthy experience with a number of councils, replied he has not come across it before. Miller also confirmed the complaint is the first material CoC she is aware of at KDC.

Remedial recommendations identified in the independent investigators report included del la Varis-Woodcock to give a public apology at the council meeting and a private apology for the two complainants. It also requests the CE to organise an induction session on the use of media and social media for all

incoming elected members after the election, including Cr del la Varis-Woodcock if re-elected, and proposed including additional funding for improved technology for the recording of council meetings.

Smith says the work of the investigator is clear that this is a power imbalance which he viewed very gravely.

“Trust is essential to what this council believes in. A decade ago trust in Kaipara was badly damaged due to the wastewater debacle, and we’ve been making great improvements to earn the trust of our community by being a good employer and following through on our commitments,” he says. “I’m very sad and disappointed at this moment, it’s with a very heavy heart I bring this matter to vote.”

The motion was carried unanimously and although del la Varis-Woodcock chose not to comment, she accepted the validity and accuracy of the report, and apologised sincerely to council members.

n To view the full discussion, visit the KDC YouTube channel.

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