Hamilton City Council has fielded more than half a dozen queries about whether a series of billboards featuring a photo of Mayor Andrew King and a message is early electioneering.
Hamilton Mayor Andrew King has funded five different billboards so far erected in about five locations around Hamilton since December 2018.
Other city councillors have previously criticised the billboards saying he is breaking rules by effectively starting his campaign before the allocated three-month period. The billboards are similar in style and colour to those used in his 2016 mayoral bid.
King has continuously denied this and said the messages were either goodwill or positions endorsed by the full council.
The official electioneering period runs for three months from July 12.
King's first billboard was put up in December and wished residents a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It was signed off "God Bless, Andrew King".
Following complaints King was starting his mayoral campaign early, the council's chief executive sought external legal advice which said there was a risk his use of the official city crest on his billboards would create a public perception they were being endorsed by Hamilton City Council.
The council's lawyers also advised that using the council's resources and branding to promote the profile of the Mayor in an election year was also a risk.
Hamilton City Council has refused to release the external legal advice it sought around the billboards citing legal privilege. It was also unable to provide how much that legal advice had cost it because it had not yet received a bill.
However, after receiving the legal advice, King appears to have removed the crest in the third and subsequent billboards.
The blue, red and white colour scheme used in his 2016 mayoral campaign was replaced by a bright orange in the third billboard that was accompanied by the words "Your help may harm".
But by the fourth Easter/Anzac-themed billboard, the red, white and blue colours, his campaign slogan "Love Hamilton" and a photo of him had returned.
These also feature in the latest billboard "Hey SkyCity we say NO to 60 more pokies".
The photo used in his latest billboards is the same one that he used in his successful 2016 mayoral campaign.
King has denied using his campaign colours in the billboard and said they were colours he used for everything.
"I use the same colour for everything I do. I use red, white and blue.
"Anything that I'm saying is a position of council, it's not a position of Andrew. It's a position of council."
He said the latest SkyCity message conveyed a direct resolution from council where it had employed a QC to challenge the entertainment company's application to increase the number of pokies at its venue.
King personally funded the billboards at no cost to council.
In a Local Government Official Information Act response, the council confirmed the chief executive had received two queries relating to the billboards, the Mayor's office had received three and the democracy team had received two. The queries all related to the endorsement of the billboards and whether they constituted electioneering by the Mayor.
Hamilton councillor Rob Pascoe who, along with Angela O'Leary, queried the suitability of the Christmas billboard, said the timing of the billboards just before election year suggested it was definitely part of his campaign.
However, because of some uncertainty around the rules, it appeared that any spending outside the three-month period might not have to be accounted for, he said.
"It's just a matter of commonsense that if he was really thinking about the city and safe motoring and holidays then why didn't he start that in December 2016?"
Last week King defended appointing a new chief of staff with only five months left of his term.