Horowhenua District Council's latest meeting descended into acrimonious chaos on Wednesday, with councillors angrily leaving the room to stymie mayor Michael Feyen's attempt to read a report on his mayoralty.
The fracas began when Feyen, citing meeting rules, refused to allow councillors to speak during a report by councillor Barry Judd, ostensibly on positive achievements made during the year.
He then allowed councillor Ross Campbell to table an unexpected document, which Campbell said was a conflict of interest for council chief executive David Clapperton, who he asked to leave the council table. Clapperton sought legal advice but remained in his seat.
Councillor Victoria Kaye Simmons and deputy mayor Wayne Bishop left the room in protest, Simmons audibly swearing and saying "disgusting" on the way out.
The contents of the document were not revealed although it is understood to relate to an employment matter.
Feyen then began his report, in which he accused councillors of undemocratic behaviour and "almost total subordination" to the council's chief executive David Clapperton.
He also said he would be seeking the assistance of the new government, and in particular the Minister of Local Government, over the issues that "so appear to divide this council."
He called the past year an "annus horribilis" or horrible year.
"What is clear is that I inherited this council under a regime which took 12 plus years to build - a situation which has raised some worrying signs in terms of controls on spending, Horowhenua's direction, email interceptions [and the] internal conflict we are now continually experiencing and having to deal with," he said.
"There seems to be much at stake for some in council."
He said his election as mayor came as a complete surprise to management and most councillors, and that councillors had placed media advertisements shortly after the election vowing loyalty to the CE rather than himself.
"I find myself often wondering why it is like this, there seems to be much to hide," he said.
He said in his observation, that seemed to surround land, development and who benefitted from that.
Councillor Barry Judd initially called for a point of order, then left the meeting when it was disallowed. He was followed by Ross Brannigan, who was asked to leave by Feyen, citing abuse, along with other councillors and some council staff.
The meeting was then unable to be continued due to lack of a quorum, and a live stream was immediately cut.
Feyen continued to read the report to the full public gallery, while further unsuccessful efforts to stop him included the turning off of lights and microphones in the chambers.
He outlined his concerns over several key issues the council has controversially grappled with over the past year, including reports into the structural integrity of the council building in the event of an earthquake; an internal audit report council rejected highlighting the CE's practice of intercepting emails as an extreme risk; and the sale of the district's pensioner housing to a charity linked with a Wellington property developer.
Feyen also claimed there were multiple leaks of information from within HDC that were serious, and that he "continually" received emails from within the organisation asking him to resign, which he would not, and that he had "severe concerns" about conflicts of interest within the council.
"I certainly don't like what happened here this evening but I think you might get the gist of how unprepared anyone is to listen to anything," he said.
"I don't believe anything that was said was defamatory".
Speaking afterwards, Clapperton said HDC would seek advice "from various quarters" about what happened during the meeting, and he would be making contact with Local Government New Zealand on Thursday.
"Generally what we can do is take the agenda that was going to be considered tonight and take that forward to a subsequent meeting."
Clapperton said the situation at the meeting wasn't about a communication breakdown, but rather about himself or councillors not knowing what was going to be said by the mayor.
"The mayor advised me ten days ago that he was going to make an announcement, we asked him if he was prepared to share that so we could assist him with anything that was required, and he said no."
He did not want to comment on the content of Feyen's report.
"I chose not to hear it,"he said.
"Care needs to be taken in making unfounded allegations, particularly in a public environment."
He said what had happened at the meeting was "pretty unique".
"We just have to deal with where to from here."
Councillor Jo Mason said discord in the meeting was triggered by a "double standard" where Feyen would not allow some councillors to speak, yet allowed Campbell to table a document.
She said she was disappointed councillors had not been able to speak about their positive achievements.
"I didn't walk out lightly," she said.
"I'd done hours of work on agenda items."
She said however, the council would get through the upset and return to business as usual.
HDC said on Thursday morning an extraordinary meeting of council had been arranged under the Local Government Act for first Monday morning so the rest of the agenda items could be worked through.