Kapiti council row sparks abuse

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 09:57 31/07/2014

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Kapiti Observer

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A councillor has apologised after calling a public speaker an idiot at a meeting held to discipline another councillor.

Kapiti Coast District councillors decided on Thursday to censure Jackie Elliott, who faced three code of conduct complaints.

At the meeting Greater Wellington regional councillor Nigel Wilson fronted as a public speaker in Elliott's defence.

Councillor Gavin Welsh asked why Wilson, who was advising Elliott, scotched an agreement that would have seen her apologise and councillor Murray Bell drop his complaints.

In a heated exchange, Wilson said that option was asking Elliott whether she "preferred to be shot or hung . . . that is not a negotiated agreement."

After the exchange Wilson railed at a comment muttered by Welsh.

"Sorry, what was that, Councillor? Did you call me a f...... idiot?" I object to that."

"No, I sneezed," Welsh said.

Later in the meeting Welsh withdrew the comment and apologised.

After the meeting Welsh confirmed he called Wilson an idiot but said he did not swear at him.

"My comment was made quietly under my breath in the heat of the moment, clearly not quietly enough, but as was demonstrated, an apology for a misplaced comment goes a long way."

He said it was a shame Wilson did not allow Elliott the same opportunity to apologise, which she had intended to do.

"A lot of pragmatism and good will went into brokering a deal that would have prevented this action."

Wilson said the eventual decision to censure Elliott put the council at the risk of a costly judicial review.

He stood by what he claimed Welsh called him, but he "couldn't care less".

"But . . . could you imagine how a member of the public might feel? How would they feel about getting up and saying what they truly believe if they're going to get that kind of response?"

After the meeting Elliott referred the Kapiti Observer to Wilson for comment.

He said he was fronting for the councillor because she felt she was being systematically bullied.

"It's a huge amount of pressure, and I've been around the traps and don't mind . . . as part of my job I go into bat for all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons."

Elliott faced censure after a panel found she twice breached a code of conduct.

The panel comprised councillors Mike Cardiff and Janet Holborow, and was chaired by lawyer Peter Chemis.

It recommended censuring Elliott after finding she breached the code on two of the three complaints raised by Bell.

The first related to an email sent to councillor Diane Ammundsen in a dispute over the council's public arts panel, of which Elliott is a member.

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The panel found that Elliott described Ammundsen as vindictive and loathsome in the email. It did not accept Elliott's explanation that the terms were used to describe the council as an institution, and not directed at Ammundsen.

It found Elliott breached the code but recommended no action be taken. The panel found Elliott breached the code in the second complaint involving an email to a staff member.

Elliott was alleged to have threatened staff that she would go to media and complain if she did not receive information requested from the staff member.

The panel found Elliott failed to show appropriate courtesy and respect, and was aggressive towards the staff member.

- Kapiti Observer

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