The meeting agenda for Monday's New Plymouth District Council meeting was labelled an EXTRAORDINARY COUNCIL MEETING.
That may have been a bureaucratic nicety but it was entirely accurate in its definition and also stunningly accurate in its description.
It was extraordinary in that it was a one-off, non-scheduled meeting with only one topic - what to do about disciplining Councillor Sherril George. It was also extraordinary in the sense of just what transpired.
Before the council was a recommendation from the monitoring committee that she be stripped of membership of four of the council committees on which she sat. As well, and this was the biggie, she was to be censured. As in told off.
For those you who came in late, or recently emigrated from Libya, at the heart of the matter was Cr George's alleged breach of the Code of the Conduct for her role in 'Savourygate' as it's been dubbed, by some, well me, now.
She was upset about the opening of a new food retail shop in Waitara, the Town and Country Cafe, and handed out pamphlets outside the shop. Basically she was unhappy about the Cambodian-owned shop undercutting other food businesses while putting nothing back into the community.
She tipped off the Taranaki Daily News about her planned protest but then found herself burned by the publicity she was so keen to generate - the ultimate backfire.
The shop owner and others complained that she had introduced herself as a New Plymouth District Councillor and had questioned the processes under which it had been allowed to open.
In all, 23 complaints were received by email and there were 'numerous complaints' by telephone.
That prompted an investigation by officers who reported to the monitoring committee, which made the recommendations for Monday's far-from-ordinary meeting.
Precisely at 3pm, the trial, sorry, meeting, began.
Mayor Harry Duynhoven was suitably solemn as he informed everybody how the process would work. In the gallery were 10 to 15 supporters of the defendant; a class of Witt journalism students who had the privilege of seeing the first formal censure proceedings of the council since its inception in 1989; and a fuller than usual bench of media bods.
Cr Craig McFarlane, the other Waitara ward councillor, withdrew from proceedings because he had already publicly said what he thought at the time of the incident. You can't show predetermination of stuff when you're a councillor, especially important stuff.
First to speak was Councillor Maurice Betts. He came across as the prosecutor, albeit a very reasoned one and, in his own quiet, moderate way, which occasionally reeks of commonsense, he reminded the jury, sorry, councillors, why they were there, what the key points were and summed up by saying he believed it was an error of judgement, "as opposed to an act of malice".
If the opening address was anything to go by, the matter would be disposed of in a gentlemanly (and lady-like) fashion.
It wasn't though.
Next up was the defence counsel, Cr John Horse McLeod. Much of his heartfelt speech revolved around freedom of speech. Something that was enshrined in the Bill of Rights. And he had a copy of it with him. He also had a copy of the code of conduct too and pointed out that that gave councillors the right to speak out if they disagreed with council decisions.
Then he posed a question so deep, many of his colleagues wrestled with a possible answer for much of the next 40 minutes: "When is a councillor not a councillor?"
He also spoke of his military background and the need for 'collaborative evidence', something that was missing (in the George Case), he said with conviction.
When he finished there was loud applause from the George supporters in the gallery. It was a moving moment and, for a while, there was hope that the jury, um, council, could acquit.
Cr Howie Tamati was next to speak and he made it clear from the start he was on the side of the prosecution. Over the years he and Cr George have clashed repeatedly, never more so than over the Waitara leasehold land issue.
When the karakia was introduced before meetings, Ms George would walk away from the debating table and find something else to do, which only aggravated the situation, so there was plenty of history between the two.
Cr Tamati was to the point: "It doesn't hold true for me. You can't take off a hat whenever it suits you. You are what you are."
Waitara Community Board member Joe Rauner was the only one to clap at that speech.
The action started with Deputy Mayor Alex Matheson taking a particularly hard line. Acting as the senior prosecutor he let her have it.
"You have severely breached the code of conduct. It's a shame the code had to be even documented, and a bigger shame that it had to be implemented. You have denigrated Waitara, this council and every councillor past and present."
At this stage the jeers and murmurs of dissent from the gallery were growing, and the Honourable Harry told them in no uncertain terms to be silent.
But really, that was as hard as it got.
There didn't seem much appetite for a hanging, with several colleagues keen to accept the qualified apology she offered in a long, tear-filled, rambling speech that was notable for a thinly veiled attack on the council officers.
In doing so, she probably breached the code of conduct again, but then there's no point in throwing the book at her when it is so light and ineffectual it wouldn't hurt a flea. Or cost a naughty councillor one cent of her $32,614 council salary.
In the end, no one benefited much from Savourygate, an unsavoury business no matter which way you looked at it.
Fans of Lyn Webster will find her weekly column in tomorrow's paper.
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