Napier Mayor Bill Dalton so sick of social media 'vitriol' he says he might move elsewhere
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton has warned councillors his council could be the first to be destroyed by social media.
In an extraordinary email, he also tells councillors they need to support the current chief executive officer, Wayne Jack, who is re-applying for his position - a move that an employment expert says could mean Dalton has shown a bias and can play no role in selecting who fills the position.
The email, obtained by Stuff, was sent to the 12 councillors shortly after 6pm on Thursday, and begins by saying in capital letters: "This in strict confidence".
He takes issue with criticism of Jack, saying he and wife Shirley have been "frankly disgusted with the vitriolic attacks Wayne is being subjected to by the people of Napier".
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"It has soured us to the extent we are seriously considering other locations for our full retirement," he said.
Jack took up the position in 2013. His term lapsed recently and the position was advertised, with applications closing on Friday.
Dalton told his councillors the recruitment agency had received a number of applications and he did not want to lose Jack, who he believed might seek higher pay elsewhere.
"All of this is in a climate of bullying by a small minority of Napier citizens on social media. You will not be surprised to know that Wayne is feeling the pressure. His wife Tracy is struggling," he said.
Dalton said the council's senior leaders were totally supportive of Jack. "However, some of them are showing signs of bitterness and may leave" too.
"As councillors I believe we need to stand by our man. We need to be out in the community telling people about our successes and acknowledging the role Wayne and his rejuvenated team have played in those successes," he said.
They had the chance to be a very successful council but "we also have the chance of being the first council to be destroyed by ill-informed social media".
"The purpose of this letter is to ask you all to show support to your chief executive. To ask people you know to publicly, through social media and the newspapers, to acknowledge the progress we are making as a council. At this stage the negative team are winning the game," he said.
"My apologies for being somewhat dramatic but we are facing, primarily through social media, a significant and concerted attack. We need to stand up, work as a team, and re-establish ourselves on the high ground".
Employment lawyer Andrew Scott-Howman said advertising a position when there was every intention of appointing the incumbent could be seen as "contrary to good faith".
"If you do advertise, you do have to be open-minded. Any suggestion you may have pre-determined the outcome, or be closed-minded to someone else who comes along, then effectively it brings the process into question.
"It could lead to problems. The mayor may have disqualified himself from being one of the selection panel because he's effectively advertised bias towards one of the candidates. He may need to stand back from the process."
On Friday Dalton rejected that, and said his email only encouraged councillors to show their support for Jack, not for him retaining his position.
"All I'm saying is they need to stand up and stand by their man. It has nothing to do with his employment whatsoever."
The decision on who would be appointed chief executive would be made by a subcommittee consisting of Dalton, deputy mayor Faye White and councillor Tony Jeffery.
"I've got a completely open mind," Dalton said. "At the time I sent that out it was because the council was being attacked through Wayne and me left, right and centre. I didn't even know at that stage if Wayne was re-applying for the job. I'm told he has now.
"The social media attacks have been that cruel that as much as anything they are affecting our lives and much of the criticism is unjust. They've personalised it against Wayne and I when the decisions are council decisions.
"All I did was write to my councillors, as I'm quite entitled to do, and say 'come on guys, we're all one team, you need to support your chief executive'."
He said he would look at the applicants next week. The subcommitee would then go through the interview process "and the best person for the job will get it".