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Code of conduct was breached

Two district councillors have breached the council’s code of conduct, the council’s code of conduct board has found — but they will not be named and no sanctions have been imposed.

The code of conduct process was initiated by Gisborne District Council to investigate an allegation by councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown that she heard a colleague say “not enough (Maori) were killed” during the first encounters here with Europeans in 1769.

The review did not confirm the comments were made.

The board has recommended the council receive further code of conduct training and appropriate cultural tikanga training.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz, who chaired the review board that included councillor Karen Fenn and Professor Pare Keiha, released a statement after yesterday’s council meeting.

She said later in response to a question that the names of the councillors involved were not released because of a threat of legal proceedings for defamation.

Her statement confirmed a complaint was received about a third councillor.

In her statement she said the board investigated two separate complaints lodged against three councillors.

The board’s role was to consider complaints and report to the council.

The board followed the process as set out in the code of conduct.

“I am confident that we followed a robust and fair process in the past couple of weeks while we were looking into these allegations,” she said.

In response to questions from The Herald Mrs Stoltz said the code of conduct review did not confirm the comments were made.

The board found the two councillors breached different provisions in the code.

These breaches were resolved by informal means.

The breaches related to behaviours that fell short of the standards of the code.

These breaches are:

3.13. (d) No media comments should criticise the conduct of the council, other elected members or officers of the council, nor should it undermine any existing policy or decision of the council.

3.1 Members will conduct their dealings with each other in ways that: (d) Avoid aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct.

The board agreed as per the code of conduct 4.7 (f) that mediation and informal resolution of the complaints should be investigated in the first instance.

Council confident the code review ‘robust’Both breaches were addressed via appropriate informal means.

“Councillors were reminded of their obligations to behave to a standard that our community can be proud of,” she said.

Although councillors received code of conduct training during induction, in light of the findings, the code of conduct board recommends further code of conduct training for this council.

The board also recommends appropriate cultural tikanga training.

“The board considers that these training opportunities will assist councillors to adhere to appropriate standards of behaviour as outlined in the code of conduct — these standards of behaviour are expected from elected officials by both the council itself and by the public we serve,” Mrs Stoltz said.

The board findings and recommendations were accepted by councillors and endorsed by the Mayor.

“Mayor Meng Foon agrees that the board has gone through a thorough and robust process and that they have been professional in their inquiry.

“I have every confidence in the panel members’ findings and recommendations.”

“The council is committed to moving forward together as a united team. We want to assure the community that we take breaches of our code seriously and we will be working hard to restore public confidence in the council,” said Mrs Stoltz.

“There have been many lessons learnt throughout this process.”