Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell has hit out at what he describes as a "mob" of councillors who effectively forced the resignation of his deputy and are now trying to push out the replacement.
Powell claims the councillors - Andrew Hollis, John Robson, Steve Morris, Dawn Kiddie, Kelvin Clout and Bill Grainger - oppose his leadership and "are desperately trying to hold on to an old regime".
Powell announced the shock resignation of deputy mayor Larry Baldock at a city council meeting yesterday, before quickly appointing first-term councillor Tina Salisbury as Baldock's successor. Baldock remains a councillor.
It emerged after the meeting that Hollis, Robson, Morris, Kiddie, Clout and Grainger - who form a majority in the council of 11 - sent a signed letter to council chief executive Marty Greenfell last week requesting a June 17 meeting to remove Baldock as deputy mayor and a vote for a new deputy.
Baldock's resignation and Salisbury's appointment meant the meeting would not take place.
But just hours later Robson confirmed the same group of councillors filed another signed letter seeking a meeting on June 25 to remove Salisbury as deputy mayor and the opportunity to vote for a new deputy.
Powell said, in his view, it was a "very, very sad day for Tauranga" when a group of six councillors would not give an intelligent and capable councillor such as Salisbury a chance to prove her leadership abilities.
The mayor said, in his opinion, the six councillors were a ''mob'' who ''won't permit her to even try".
Powell believed their actions were in opposition to his way of leading, which was to "bring progress and change to a city that has been held back for years".
He also believed the move was about putting Robson in the deputy position to halt progress he had made in his short time as mayor.
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"I'm very disappointed that this particular group are trying to cling to the old ways."
Powell said Robson would be the "single worst person" to have in the deputy mayor position and believed relationships with regional partnerships and central government would be strained if he was successful.
In response, Robson described the mayor's comment he was the worst person to be deputy and would strain relationships as an "exaggeration".
Robson did not confirm his intention to seek the deputy position but said some councillors believed he would be suitable.
"Other people would have a different view."
The letters were not a personal attack but a move to ensure democracy in the leadership and ensure the person holding the deputy role was voted in, he said.
"I don't know what the result of an election would be."
Robson said he was all for progress of the city but wanted progress to be sustainable and not rushed.
Robson said, from his perspective, the aim was to "take Larry's approach" out of the deputy mayor position and "get democracy back".
He said last month's meeting, which he withdrew from, was "not a final straw, but definitely a straw" in a democratic council process.
"This is not a reaction to a single event."
Hollis claimed Baldock's "lack of democracy" was the driving force behind the decision to send the initial letter, citing a controversial council meeting last month which he and Morris and Kiddie left in protest as a catalyst. The trio said, in their view, Baldock had cut short debate on a major CBD streetscaping project in Elizabeth St.
Baldock refuted claims that he performed with a lack of democracy, saying he always put the best interest of the community first.
He said he had been pushed out of the role and was "gutted" as the city sought to recover from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Baldock described the move by the councillors as "unthinkable".
"I didn't want to resign at this point."
Baldock said he "strongly" believed the mayor should be free to appoint a deputy he had confidence in and could trust and the only way to restore that choice was to resign before the June 17 meeting to "prevent what, in my view, would have been a damaging process for council and the city".
Hollis said the requisition letter against the new deputy mayor had nothing to do with Salisbury's ability to do the job and "all about democracy". His comments were made yesterday before the letter was filed.
"We're actually quite disappointed that Tenby has selected a new deputy without discussion," Hollis said.
Powell said that when he was elected mayor he made it clear he wanted a woman as deputy but to ensure the experience was brought to the role he sought out Baldock to consider the position.
Baldock said he had made it clear he would want to "review the situation within a year, to allow consideration of a suitable alternate among the newly-elected councillors, after they had time to settle in and gain experience".
Powell said Baldock being forced out of the role and Salisbury's appointment brought that forward.
Salisbury told the Bay of Plenty Times before the requisition letter to remove her was filed that the six councillors were "quite within their rights'' to seek her removal but she hoped she would at least be given a chance.
She said Baldock's decision was "courageous" and hoped council could now move forward.
"This is not how I would have ever imagined stepping into this role."
Who is Tina Salisbury:
She has been a business owner, a church pastor and a first-term councillor and now Tina Salisbury can add deputy mayor of Tauranga to her list of credentials.
The Tauranga woman was elected to Tauranga City Council after receiving the most votes of those standing for the Te Papa-Welcome Bay Ward, with 2907 votes.
She is on the mayoral taskforce for homelessness and believes Tauranga's housing crisis is one of the city's biggest issues.
Salisbury has organised community family events, helped support youth and taught technology to the elderly. Her venture to become a councillor for the city was her first.
When she received the phone call asking her to take on the deputy mayor role on Monday night, Salisbury said she was grateful for the opportunity.
She said had not yet had time to set goals in her new position, which now looked in doubt.