Whangārei District Councillor Vince Cocurullo has been found guilty by his fellow councillors of breaching the Elected Members Code of Conduct by releasing details of a confidential council meeting agenda.
However, Cocurullo denies the allegations, saying he has not released any such information and that there was no evidence against him.
Cocurullo was found guilty by a majority 6-3 decision after a complaint was made against him in December last year by mayor Sheryl Mai. The councillors found that the breach was at the minor end of the spectrum, and decided that no penalty should be imposed.
Cocurullo - who also serves on the Northland District Health Board - disputed the guilty verdict, saying they were allegations laid against him that had no evidence to back them up. And, he says, it was a case of the majority of councillors believing Mai - who laid the complaint - over him.
"The assumption was that because I have a business that dealt with other businesses I must be guilty,'' he said.
''I have been in business for over 20 years, where I have been dealing with business' and individuals' confidential information every day in the work I do. Just like the way I do not tell people about the information I see or hear, is the same way I deal with council and the DHB in relation to confidential information.
''The mayor had no evidence that I leaked information, she only assumed that it was me because of my business contacts, and the code of conduct ended up being my word against the mayor's.''
However, Mai said the allegation was looked into by an independent investigator and it was the investigator's report that the councillors voted on.
''The councillors' decision was based on that independent investigator's report,'' she said.
Mai said it was disappointing that the council had to go through the Code of Conduct exercise, but it was an important reminder to them all of them that they had obligations around confidential information they dealt with.
The Code of Conduct hearing against Cocurullo was heard behind closed doors - they are normally done in public - to protect the interests of third parties, not the elected members involved, council CEO Rob Forlong said.
Forlong said in December, Mai submitted a Code of Conduct complaint against Cocurullo, which alleged he had breached the Elected Member Code of Conduct by releasing details of two confidential council meeting agendas - one relating to the sale of a commercial property, and the second relating to a resource consent.
Following the procedure outlined in council's Elected Member Code of Conduct, the complaint was referred to an independent investigator to assess whether there was evidence of a material breach of the Code of Conduct. An independent investigator found that there was a probability of a material breach in relation to one of those allegations - the one relating to the property transaction.
The matter was considered by the council at a formal hearing on July 23, and the majority of councillors present found that a breach of the code had occurred.
He said the councillors noted that the breach was at the minor end of the spectrum, and decided that no penalty should be imposed.
In the Code of Conduct hearing Greg Innes moved, and Gavin Benney seconded a motion:
"That council find that Cr Vince Cocurullo has breached the Elected Members Code of Conduct 2018 in that he disclosed information on a decision made during the public excluded session of a council meeting held on November 27, 2019.''
The agenda item for that meeting related to a development opportunity, and was in the public excluded: "To enable council to carry on without prejudice or disadvantage negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations). To enable council to carry on without prejudice or disadvantage negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations). To prevent the disclosure or use of official information for improper gain or improper advantage.''
Councillors Innes, Benney, Ken Couper, Tricia Cutforth, Anna Murphy and Carol Peters found Cocurullo had breached the code, while Shelley Deeming, Phil Halse and Greg Martin voted against. Nicolas Connop and Jayne Golightly abstained from voting.
Once that hearing had been held, councillors were informed by Forlong that an investigation into a Code of Conduct complaint by Cocurullo against Mai had found no evidence of a material breach of the Elected Member Code of Conduct.
Cocurullo had complained that Mai had breached the code in relation to "respect for others" and "maintaining relationships" when she said in front of councillors that she believed he had released confidential information and that she would be laying a complaint that he had breached the Code of Conduct.
The investigator reported that there was no evidence of a material breach of a Code of Conduct and that the complaint should be dismissed. In accordance with the procedure set out under the code there was no hearing of this complaint and the report was simply received.