Mayor wants more power to punish rogue councillors

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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Handing the mayor more powers to punish rebel councillors would not have stopped Sherril George breaking the code of conduct, her colleague says.

On Wednesday, New Plymouth District councillors stripped Ms George of all official roles after she publicly blamed community services general manager Cathy Thurston for a trio of recent high profile resignations at the council.

The third such code of conduct hearing in two years, an obviously frustrated Mayor Harry Duynhoven said it was time councils had more power to deal with rogue councillors.

Shaun Biesiek, one of only two councillors against stripping Ms George of her responsibilities, said giving the mayor the power to dock pay or bar them from meetings would not have stopped Ms George.

"I don't believe Sherril believes she has breached the code of conduct. So if you believe you are not breaching the code you would still carry on with what you were doing regardless of punishments," he said.

Mr Biesiek said if Ms George's letter, which fingered a "small person with a big ego", had simply been ignored, the issue would have disappeared.

Instead, council chief executive Barbara McKerrow said the letter was an obvious attack on Ms Thurston and charged Ms George with breaking the council's code of conduct.

"It's their reaction which gives the issue weight," Mr Biesiek said.

Mr Duynhoven said he was forced to act, and if the council had taken no action, Ms George would have been emboldened.

"I think what it would have done is a week or two later, we would have seen another letter at a higher level.

"If you let a bully get away with an incident, they raise the level of the incident and quite frankly the rest of the council has had a gutsful."

Though now without any council responsibilities, Ms George is still able to vote on issues before full council. Last year Ms George received $32,375 for her role as councillor and will continue to receive her salary in full.

In that respect she joins John McLeod, who is also on full pay but without council responsibilities after spectacularly chucking them all in before his colleagues could punish him for his own code of conduct breach last year.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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