The Far North District Council is staying tight-lipped about a meeting at which it is believed the chief executive's contract was extended for another two years.
The extraordinary meeting was held behind closed doors last Wednesday. The only item on the agenda was ''employment matters relating to the chief executive''.
While councils are generally required to release decisions made in extraordinary meetings as soon as practicable, that doesn't apply if the meeting was held in public exclusion.
In response to Advocate inquiries a council spokesman said: ''At this stage there is nothing the council can say about those discussions or any decisions taken, as councillors did not resolve to release information from the meeting.''
It is understood, however, that councillors voted to extend chief executive Shaun Clarke's contract by two years. Clarke, whose previous job was New Zealand defence attache to Australia and India, was hired in early 2017 with a contract that would have run through to April 2020.
The Far North District Council has a history of rehiring chief executives shortly before elections, which has sometimes cost ratepayers dearly.
A previous chief executive, David Edmunds, was rehired under former mayor Wayne Brown just days before the 2013 elections and left a few months later. The reasons for his departure were never disclosed. He received a payout of $193,846.
Edmunds' predecessor, Clive Manley, had his contract renewed shortly before the 2007 election which saw Brown voted in. That decision was strongly criticised at the time by Brown and some councillors.
Manley, who had been at the helm for nine years, resigned at short notice in August 2008 for reasons that were not disclosed. Brown made the announcement while he was on a trade mission to China. Manley's severance pay was $248,000.
Guidelines published by the Auditor-General advise councillors not to recruit a new chief executive in the months immediately before or after local elections, but don't specify when it's acceptable to renew an existing chief executive's contract.
The Auditor-General states that a new chief executive recruited before an election could be seen as a product of the previous council and therefore viewed with suspicion and distrust by new councillors; while a newly elected council, without time to formulate its own requirements for a chief executive, may not be well placed to select the most suitable applicant.
In another extraordinary public-excluded meeting held on the same day councillors discussed a proposal for a multi-use community and cultural hub on the Ngāpuhi-owned former Kaikohe Hotel site. The outcome of that meeting is not known.