Deputy mayor of Horowhenua faces ousting bid from councillors

By Sadie Beckman

Precarious position: Deputy Mayor Ross Campbell is set to be unseated as councillors state their intention to use local government legisation to remove him from the role.
Precarious position: Deputy Mayor Ross Campbell is set to be unseated as councillors state their intention to use local government legisation to remove him from the role.

Councillors are to vote on potentially ousting the deputy mayor of Horowhenua at the next council meeting.

Mayor Michael Feyen said in a video statement published on his Facebook page on Monday that he had received an email from a group of councillors stating their intention to invoke legislative measures to remove Ross Campbell, the deputy Feyen had personally selected to work alongside him.

Councillor Wayne Bishop confirmed an email had been sent and that he did not support Campbell's selection as the deputy mayor.

"Things aren't as we would want them to be as far as leadership goes," he said when questioned about the reasons behind the motion.

"Lots of specific things have caused it," he said.

"That will all come out in time."

Campbell said the situation wasn't unexpected because a group of councillors had previously published an article stating they "do not support the mayor elect of this district conducting this community's business in the national or local media and have not been able to establish confidence in this early demonstration of his leadership".

"When [they did that] they took themselves out of possible selection [as deputy mayor]," he said.

"They're unhappy about that and can use a statute to unseat me, that's legal."

Campbell said the move wasn't so much about getting rid of him as it was about councillors carrying on their fight against the mayor.

"I know I haven't done anything wrong. I did get the highest percentage of votes. They can roll me but I don't think it's going to change anything."

Campbell said that whoever the next appointee was, it was still up to the mayor how closely he used that person as his deputy.

"I don't want to set anyone against anyone - as far as I'm concerned, they're all lovely people, just sometimes things get in the way of serving the people.

"I've enjoyed serving the people of Horowhenua for the last three years, even though I've put up with a bit of nonsense. I know how to get things done and quite frankly I'll carry on with that."

Feyen said the move to unseat Campbell was highly unusual, although he wasn't surprised and felt it was part of a culture of "unhelpfulness" that existed within the council.

"You've got to wonder why when nobody's put any reason forward for it," he said.
"It's nothing more than a personality thing."

Feyen confirmed he would continue to work with Campbell, and his goals wouldn't be detracted from.

"I know what I was voted in for by the people," he said.

Councillor Barry Judd, whose signature was on the email, said the reason he supported Campbell's removal was one of "trust and confidence".

"Let's make it clear," he said. "There is nothing personal in this."

Judd said nine independent councillors, himself included, had expressed concern prior to the inauguration about the leadership of the mayor and his actions in the media and on social media.

He said the councillors had requested the deputy mayor be elected rather than appointed, as was their right, however the mayor had still decided to use his mayoral prerogative to choose personally.

Judd denied the move to unseat the deputy mayor was anything to do with sour grapes about the appointment process or insulting Feyen, and reiterated it was about poor performance. He wasn't prepared to comment on any specific claims ahead of the council meeting, saying they would be made clear then.

"The mayor seems to think he has a mandate to run the district by himself," he said.

"That is not democracy.

"I have no confidence in [Feyen and Campbell's] ability to do the job."

Judd said he believed democracy was about the people elected by the community sitting at a table making good decisions on behalf of that community, and that he wasn't seeing any of that from the mayor to date.

He said that if Ross Campbell was voted out, a new deputy mayor would be elected and would get on with the job of supporting the mayor, although should Feyen choose not to work closely with the new incumbent, and continued to work closely with Campbell, "that's his choice".

"This isn't about personalities, it's about getting on and doing the job," he said.

Councillor Christine Mitchell, whose name was also on the email, wouldn't comment about the reasons behind the move.

She said she would rather speak directly to the people involved, and may or may not do this ahead of the council meeting.

Councillors whose names were on the email were Bernie Wanden, Jo Mason, Neville Gimblett, Ross Brannigan, Barry Judd, Christine Mitchell, Wayne Bishop, Piri-Hira Tukapua and Victoria Kaye-Simmons.

Mr Feyen said other participants at the mayoral induction course he attended were in real disbelief about circumstances in Horowhenua, and that he was considering engaging a government observer to oversee the situation.

- Horowhenua Chronicle

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