Wellington Mayor Andy Foster is accusing a councillor and her "Labour associates" of delaying tactics after the Auditor-General was called on to investigate a last-minute proposal to sell part of the Central Library building.
Labour ticket councillor Fleur Fitzsimons has written to the Auditor-General voicing concerns that recent decision-making over the building isn't consistent with the Local Government Act or in line with good governance.
But Mayor Andy Foster said Fitzsimons' claims have no substance.
"It's a delaying tactic and it's solely meant to muddy the waters."
That prompted councillors Jill Day, Rebecca Matthews, Tamatha Paul and Teri O'Neill to issue their own statement in support of Fitzsimons.
They rejected Foster's comments, labelling them as unprofessional.
"This is not the behaviour we expect from the Mayor."
Then a written statement landed from Finance Audit and Risk Committee chairwoman councillor Diane Calvert in support of Foster.
"This draft LTP process led by the Mayor has enabled a very transparent lifting of the lid on the Council's finances, ensuring transparency of the "good, bad and ugly", not hiding relevant information nor any secret "backroom deals" made with a few, she said.
"I have not heard the Mayor or indeed any other elected member say they should not be open to scrutiny."
Despite publicly announcing his budget just one week beforehand, Foster came to the table with several eleventh-hour changes, including partnering with the private sector to reopen the library.
Councillors went on to vote in favour of the move, 9-6, which means a joint ownership or leasing model will be further investigated and put forward as preferred options in future public consultation documents.
The library has been closed for two years due to seismic concerns and will cost up to $179 million to strengthen.
Councillors calls on Auditor-General to investigate
Fitzsimons wrote to the Auditor-General's office on Sunday, saying the resolution made by the council's Long Term Plan Committee was "irregular".
Councillors were not provided with the mayor's proposed resolution ahead of time, instead just a "difficult to comprehend email" at 9pm on the Tuesday before the budget meeting, Fitzsimons said.
"It was clear that some councillors did not understand the implications of what was being proposed and raised concerns that the approach from the mayor went against the principles of good governance."
She said the resolution directly contradicted a previous decision made by a full council meeting last year that any further investigations into the library would be undertaken while maintaining council ownership of the building.
"The entire approach goes against the previous decision of the council, is unclear, has not been subject to scrutiny, financial analysis, or risk analysis and need to be investigated and resolved," Fitzsimons told the Auditor-General.
Mayor hits back
But Foster said Fitzsimons was playing "delaying tactics" and being irresponsible.
"Her approach would delay delivering an exciting, modern, community-owned library by years, or blow any prudent debt limit, or yet again defer investing in our pipes and climate change response.
"I've worked hard to put the true state of Council finances and risks into my budget."
He claimed councillors were warned about funding issues with the library in workshops before Thursday's meeting.
Foster has previously said mounting cost pressures on the council meant the current funding arrangement for the library would blow the lid on a proposed 225 per cent debt limit.
He told councillors they needed to "think creatively" about how the library is funded to ensure it's reopened in a timely manner.
Fitzsimons said Foster was "obviously feeling under pressure".
"I reject the claim that his approach of delaying spending money on the library would mean it would open faster. It just doesn't make sense.
"He wouldn't have accepted the lack of detail about such a key decision when he was a councillor and I won't either."
She said the mayor took a "last-minute and quite flippant approach" to selling the library building after consulting the public under the premise it would stay in council ownership.
"It's a real flip-flop in the decision that the council made and I think it's a dangerous way to make decisions."
Councillors issue statement in support
In a statement, councillors Day, Matthews, Paul and O'Neill said Foster's comments were untrue and his behaviour is not what they expected from the Mayor.
They acknowledged the Long Term Plan was always going to be difficult and they worked "in good faith" over many months on the budget.
"But the cuts proposed by the Mayor in the final few days were not part of our discussions and were not well thought through, they said.
"There are alternatives to privatisation of our library building and we need to consider them.
"If the Mayor believes he followed an adequate process he should welcome scrutiny of it. Wellingtonians need to have confidence in their Council to make sound and lawful decisions."
The Auditor-General's Office confirmed it has received Fitzsimons' letter, which is being considered as per the standard process.
The Long Term Plan is still a working draft and is yet to be consulted on.