Conduct vote against George

"It is rather sad and disturbing..."

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013
tdn csher stand
ROBERT CHARLES
STRIPPED: Waitara councillor Sherril George.

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Rogue Waitara councillor Sherril George is now a lame duck with colleagues stripping her of all remaining responsibilities for breaching a code of conduct.

Just two of the 13 New Plymouth District councillors meeting to pass judgment on Ms George yesterday were against booting her off the boards and committees she was on.

The councillor landed herself in hot water last month with a letter published in the Taranaki Daily News where she accused a "short person with a big ego" of being behind a trio of sudden and largely unexplained high profile council resignations, including that of Puke Ariki boss Fiona Emberton.

Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow said the letter was clearly referring to community services general manager Cathy Thurston and charged Ms George with breaching the code of conduct, which prevents councillors from publicly criticising council employees.

Just one week later the council's powerful monitoring committee agreed and recommended censuring Ms George and stripping her of those responsibilities she had managed to hold on to after her last brush with the code in 2011.

Forgoing the opportunity to defend her actions Ms George did not address her colleagues, nor answer questions from the Daily News yesterday, instead handing out a prepared statement.

"It is rather sad and disturbing that asking questions and expecting honest answers ends in another code of conduct against me," it said.

"Given the amount of hypocrisy, double standards and incomplete information we are often subjected to, it is no surprise those on the monitoring committee and others who have supported this farcical charge have relished the opportunity to verbally abuse and bully me with no recourse."

The code of conduct hearing is the third under Mayor Harry Duynhoven's watch and just the fourth in the 30 years.

The next most recent was in June 2012 when councillor John McLeod sensationally resigned all responsibilities just minutes before judgment by his colleagues for calling Mrs McKerrow a "piece of skirt" on his Facebook page.

Before that was April 2011 after Ms George organised a boycott of a Cambodian-owned bakery that was branded racist.

Clearly exasperated at the impact the infighting was having on council's public reputation, Mr Duynhoven described the hearings as "stupid side shows that are a complete and utter waste of time and money".

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Last year's code of conduct action against Mr McLeod gobbled up around $60,000 in legal bills though the mayor said he had moved to ensure it did not cost the council the same again.

"I was determined not to go through the same difficulty we had last time with lots of costs. I am really sad we keep having to do this and it is utter bloody mindedness on behalf of a couple of councillors."

Mr Duynhoven said he still did not know why Ms Emberton had resigned after just 15 months in the job and did not believe council could have handled the resignation in any other way to have prevented Ms George's actions.

He said councillors had been invited to a briefing on the resignations but Ms George did not attend.

For her part Ms George said she had emailed Mrs McKerrow asking for information about the resignations but had received no answers.

Though now without any council responsibilities Ms George is still able to vote on issues before the full council.

Last year Ms George received $32,375 for her role as councillor; that salary will continue in full.

WHAT SHE HAS LOST

New Plymouth District councillors yesterday voted to strip councillor Sherril George of her responsibilities for code of conduct breaches.

These include:

- Policy committee

- Disabilities issues working party

- Mayor's taskforce for jobs working party

- Clifton Community Board.

This isn't the first time Ms George has been booted off committees for breaching the code. In 2011 she was removed from these positions after attempting to organise a boycott of a Cambodian-owned bakery in Waitara.

- Police liaison working party

- Funding subcommittee

- Hearings commission

- TRC Taranaki Solid Waste Management Committee

- © Fairfax NZ News

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