Censured Palmerston North city councillor Chris Teo-Sherrell has resigned four days out from the local body elections, in a ploy to dodge confidentiality rules.
He broke ranks to call the hearing of a code of conduct complaint against him "a sham".
The council this week found Cr Teo-Sherrell had breached the code by publicly criticising senior staff, and asked him not to do it again.
To support his claim that he had been denied natural justice, Cr Teo-Sherrell wanted the public to know about aspects of the complaint, hearing and council endorsement of the hearing committee's recommendations.
That meant divulging information from private meetings.
He said that, by resigning, he could speak freely and frankly about the case against him.
"Some things need to be said, and I don't want to set off another code of conduct complaint."
Mayor Jono Naylor was furious at Cr Teo-Sherrell's move, slamming it as a "despicable" breach of trust.
"I think it shows a complete lack of integrity. It shows blatant disrespect for the office of councillor, and for his colleagues, and I think it's pathetic," he said.
Chief executive Paddy Clifford said Cr Teo-Sherrell was bound by rules governing councillors' behaviour until he had his signed resignation in his hands.
Mr Cliffford did not have that resignation yesterday afternoon - after Cr Teo-Sherrell had disclosed confidential information to the Manawatu Standard.
Mr Naylor said the tactic was game-playing, and that he would never divulge what happened in the private part of meetings, even after he ceased being mayor.
For the same reason, Mr Naylor said he was not prepared to discuss the information the resigning councillor had disclosed, "because that's the honourable thing to do".
Cr Teo-Sherrell said the complaint process was flawed, as was the code itself, and the complaint should have been dismissed.
It undermined the principles of natural justice that the hearing was not held in public, and that he only had a day and a weekend to prepare his defence from the time he first saw the order paper for the hearing.
The complaint related to comments he made that were published in the Standard in June.
The words that offended were that some staff tried to "control things through fair means and foul".
Mr Clifford's statement was that the comments had caused concern and anxiety, and staff had not been treated with the courtesy and respect the code of conduct required.
The complaint also took issue with the councillor for not following processes for dealing with any concerns he had.
Cr Teo-Sherrell said those steps were to talk to the chief executive, or the mayor, or the chief executive's performance appraisal committee. He said he had no confidence in any of those options.
He argued he had just cause to express an opinion that did not identify any particular staff members.
He called Crs Bruce Wilson and Lew Findlay as witnesses to that culture of control.
Cr Teo-Sherrell said the code undermined his Bill of Rights protection of free speech, including political expression, that covered opinions that were "unpopular, offensive or distasteful".
The hearing committee said it was not competent to rule whether the Code of Conduct was out of line with the Bill of Rights.
But it did find the code was lawful and enforceable and that Cr Teo-Sherrell had breached it in offending senior staff.
The effect of his resignation is that he will miss attending tonight's final council meeting of the term, and drop four days' pay.
His candidacy for election remains valid.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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