Tauranga city councillor Andrew Hollis has denied deleting texts off his council phone in the face of an official information request, saying he prefers to make calls.

But a former deputy mayor is questioning the situation with Government officials.

Tauranga City Council has released hundreds of texts and emails sent and received by elected members during a tumultuous period of internal politicking in May and June.

Text messages released have proven embarrassing for some members, including mayor Tenby Powell who called a colleague a "soft c**k" and a "spineless coward". He has since acknowledged the community disappointment in his and others' statements.

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Hollis was one of six councillors who attempted to oust Larry Baldock as deputy mayor. Baldock resigned and Powell announced Tina Salisbury's appointment in the role on June 2.

READ MORE:
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Tauranga City councillor Larry Baldock resigns as deputy mayor, Tina Salisbury steps in
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The release, in response to official information requests by the Bay of Plenty Times, includes files of emails for all elected members, and a file of texts from all members bar one: Hollis.

Text messages attributed to Hollis do appear in the records of other councillors' conversations, however.

In some cases, only his name is listed and not the number he used, but in others, the number listed is his personal cellphone number.

Kathryn Norris, the council's democracy services team leader, confirmed Hollis' council-supplied phone was examined as part of the preparation of the response.

The council did not ask elected members to supply personal phones.

"The search criteria was applied to all phones in the same way. There were no texts on Cr Hollis' cell phone that met the search criteria and therefore nothing to provide in response to [the] request."

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Baldock posted on Facebook this morning that he was making inquiries with the Offices of the Ombudsman and Chief Archivist n regard to what, in his opinion, seemed to be a "deliberate attempt by one Councillor to avoid scrutiny by deleting all txts from his phone prior to handing it in to staff."

Baldock confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times he was referring to Hollis.

Speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times this morning, Hollis denied deleting any texts from his council phone.

"I did not delete any texts whatsoever."

"I don't use my council phone to send texts to people. For me, a text is not the way to do business. When I've got something to say to somebody ... I'll ring them.

"It's something a colleague of mine pointed out right at the beginning that the best way to deal with things is to phone people.

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"I won't discuss anything by text. Certainly not on my work phone."

In response to Baldock's allegation, Hollis said it was his view that "after the biggest own goal in council history, he is still digging and searching and trying to make it someone else's fault".

Norris said official information could encompass material held on personal phones if it was linked to council business.

Council staff, however, had no power to compel elected officials to hand over their phones, whether personal or private.

In this case, councillors were asked to provide their work phones to be searched and did so willingly.

The material released reflected what was found within scope on the phones.

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Asked about the rules for elected members regarding deletions from their phones, Norris said: "All councillors are advised that their phones and the information on them is subject to the LGOIMA."

This would extend to deleted information.

"Any decision to delete information would be the personal decision of the Councillor involved," Norris said.

She said the council could not compel councillors to hand over their phones for forensic examination to uncover any deletions and did not attempt to do so for this LGOIMA.

Second member considered quitting

Mayor Tenby Powell was not the only new member of the council to consider resigning but decide against it during the council's internal political turmoil in May and June.

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Messages in the official information release showed first-term councillor Jako Abrie, Tauranga's youngest elected member, was also struggling.

"I've been struggling for a while in politics. It's not my jam," he wrote to colleague Heidi Hughes on May 30, according to her text log. Other communications suggest he was planning an announcement.

The text did not appear on his record.

Abrie told the Bay of Plenty Times this was because it was sent from his personal phone, not his council-supplied phone.

He said he usually tried not to use his personal phone for council business.

Councillor Jako Abrie. Photo / File
Councillor Jako Abrie. Photo / File

Abrie confirmed he considered resigning at one point.

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"The relationships between councillors was toxic in late May.

"There was a point where I considered resigning, but instead started a two-week trial."

The trial involved significantly reducing his interactions with elected members outside of chambers, seeking advice from mentors and setting in place clear boundaries between work and home.

"The trial went well. I stopped considering resignation, and embedded those techniques into my routine."

Abrie said he was now feeling "optimistic" about the council environment, which was a lot more positive than before.