"Sad and pathetic" is how Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell describes an email councillor John Robson sent council chief executive Marty Grenfell on Monday, hours after Powell made public his prostate cancer diagnosis and decision to take medical leave.
At 11.02pm on Monday, Robson forwarded an email with the subject: "FW: Emailing: Elected members are not employees but independent contractors - no sick leave or other entitlements."
Attached to the email was a copy of a May 2019 Stuff story about Napier City Council stopping paying its mayor Bill Dalton while he recovered from a stroke.
According to a copy of the email supplied to the Bay of Plenty Times by the council, Robson wrote: "Hopefully the content of the above attachment, and the question implicit therein is self-evident."
On Tuesday, Grenfell replied: "I'll see that the matter of leave is reported appropriately."
Powell said that morning Grenfell told him Robson had raised the issue of his salary when he went on leave.
In Powell's view, Robson raising the issue "within 24 hours of my announcement" was aimed at hurting the mayor's "morale".
Powell said, in his opinion: "It is sad and pathetic for John Robson to write to the CEO when all he had to do is come and talk to me."
He said he believed it was a "heartless, cold approach".
Powell did not address his pay in the initial announcement of his diagnosis, which he received in full last week after a series of tests.
He said on Tuesday it was always his intention to forego his pay during his medical leave, and he had been talking to his family about it, and planning to proactively offer it, before the email.
"I won't be taking a salary."
But it appears the council may have little option but to stop his pay, in any case.
In the Napier example, the council received advice from the Remuneration Authority that it could not pay two mayoral salaries at once - to both the mayor on leave and the deputy who was acting mayor.
Powell has said deputy mayor Tina Salisbury will be acting mayor during his leave, which will start on November 20. He aimed to return early in the new year if his recovery allowed, but has not set a date.
According to advice published by the authority, an elected member acting as the mayor during a formal, extended period of leave of absence, "is eligible to receive the remuneration and allowances usually payable to the mayor ... instead of the elected member's usual remuneration, allowances, and hearing fees."
This would apply for the full period for which the leave of absence is granted. The maximum leave was six months, granted by a formal resolution of the council.
Responding to Bay of Plenty Times questions about the process, Grenfell said Powell would formally apply to the council for a leave of absence in a meeting on November 17.
Issues relating to Powell and Salisbury's pay would be considered at the same meeting.
"The mayor has indicated he will apply for leave of absence without remuneration."
Powell's intended leave period will include the Christmas holidays and run into January, when the council traditionally takes a recess from meetings. Grenfell confirmed elected member remuneration is paid fortnightly as normal during that time.
The mayor's annual pay is set at $166,500. The deputy mayor's is $121,472. All elected members have taken a temporary reduction between July 9 and January 6 in response to Covid-19.
The Remuneration Authority sets the mayor's salary and determines the pool of money that can be divided between the rest of the elected members.
Conflict among some Tauranga council elected members, including Robson and Powell, has made headlines several times since the election.
Facing the threat of intervention by the Government, the council recently hired a review and observation team to monitor elected members and assess the issues.
The team's first report is due this month, with chairman Peter Winder saying earlier this week it was aimed to be done before Powell's leave start date.
Robson was approached for comment.