Napier has certainly had its fair share of major issues this term, but if there's one issue that dominates, it's the question of who is actually in charge – the council, or the CEO?
Revelations that CEO Wayne Jack has been using staff to investigate councillors' social media posts to try to determine if any have breached the city's onerous Code of Conduct makes it plain, to my mind, who is wearing the pants.
This shouldn't surprise, given a growing perception that Jack is the man at the helm.
But it's the elected members who get blamed when $500,000 is wasted on a velodrome study, or the War Memorial gets demolished and the broken plaques and eternal flame are hidden, or a site on Prebensen Drive for a swimming complex suddenly appears and gets priority after public consultation on options for a new facility at Onekawa are finished.
Yet in each case, council officers clearly made mistakes. Little wonder half the current councillors have criticised the processes behind these issues.
Should they be hung for that? Absolutely not; they're doing the job the public elected them to do – whether Jack and his staff like it, or not.
Which clearly they don't. Among the string of emails a Radio NZ investigation turned up is one concerning the War Memorial which perhaps sums up the attitude of officers under Jack's watch.
"The councillors carry on that the community don't trust us but it is actually that councillors (some) don't trust us, and it is the councillors that the community don't trust due to their poor decision-making processes," the email complains to the CEO.
Then: "We think we should carry on with our process and if the council or the community want to challenge it, let them."
Whose decision-making processes are poor? Whose lack of trust?
Jack's reply isn't recorded. But this suggests to me a potentially toxic "we know best" culture has developed among staff – one directly at odds with the purposes of the Code, which exists to "develop a culture of mutual trust respect and tolerance… between [council] members and management".
That's not an isolated case. Another senior staffer complains about "renegade councillors" - so-called simply for questioning the process of the swimming pool project. A process that is currently being challenged in court.
So yes, in my view a toxic culture. One which, in my opinion, can only have arisen if the CEO has been given too much rope on what happens in Napier.
When in fact he is merely an employee – albeit a very highly paid one – of the elected council, on the ratepayers' behalf.
Five years ago an academic study identified Napier's code of conduct as one of the most draconian in the country for effectively gagging free speech if differing from the council-majority view.
To look to use that code against dissenters would be appalling arrogance.
Meanwhile, the drinking water of many residents is still occasionally running filthy and brown for the second year in a row. There are no excuses for not fixing this, urgently.
As for the elections, I suggest the route to a better happier Napier is to toss out anyone who sided with the Bill and Jack team and support those prepared to stand up and straighten the mess out.
Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.