Auckland Council is defying the Chief Ombudsman and refusing to drop a member of Mayor Phil Goff's mayoral staff from a group that reviews official information requests.
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier suggested "to avoid any perception of political influence" on official information requests that a mayoral staffer not be on the group.
"The council's view is that a Mayoral Office representative is well worth having on the review group, as they work right across the organisation and have knowledge of the location of information.
"I acknowledge this point of view, but nonetheless urge Auckland Council to reconsider its position," Boshier said.
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The suggestion came up in a report by Boshier on Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) practice at New Zealand's largest local authority.
The report found that Auckland Council has a strong culture of openness, led by chief executive Stephen Town, "who demonstrates a commitment to LGOIMA and transparency more generally".
Boshier noted the council proactively publishes information such as transparency reports, restated meeting minutes, LGOIMA responses, resident survey results and performance measures; and that it has a number of useful resources to guide staff in responding to requests for information.
He said council accepted all but one of his suggested actions, and has developed a plan to implement these over the next 18 months.
The one exception referred to the review group that meets weekly to review LGOIMA requests on hand, including a member of Goff's staff.
A mayoral spokesman said staff from the mayoral office, council-controlled organisations and several council departments sit on the review group that receives LGOIMA requests, saying this has been standard practice since before Goff's term as mayor.
"The final response to the Chief Ombudsman was signed off by the Chief Executive," the mayoral spokesman said.
The mayoral office would not say who sits on the review group, but it is understood to be a junior staffer.
In a statement Town said the council recognised the Chief Ombudsman's suggestions and concerns about the Mayor's Office involvement in the review group.
"We intend to review the Terms of Reference of this group, which we believe will clarify the involvement of the Mayor's Office and therefore address the concerns raised," Town said.
He said the Mayor's office has no delegated authority to make decisions on the content of LGOIMAs, saying the authority sat with himself or the Governance Director on his behalf.
Town said the council promotes a strong culture of openness and transparency, not just with LGOIMAs, but with everything, saying it is encouraging that this has been highlighted by the Ombudsman.