A council boss is under investigation over allegations he referred to "one homosexual" among his elected councillors during meetings with community groups.
The claims have seen new Far North District Council chief executive Shaun Clarke come under scrutiny from his own organisation and the Human Rights Commission.
The Herald learned of the comments that were allegedly made at community meetings and approached the only openly gay elected councillor Dave Hookway for comment.
Hookway said: "I am aware of the allegations that you have raised and am committed to co-operating with a due process to resolve these to the satisfaction of all parties."
A spokeswoman for the Human Rights Commission said: "The commission can confirm it has received a complaint, which is being processed through its confidential mediation process."
It is believed the complaint to the commission was made by Hookway.
Former councillor Steve McNally said he had heard Clarke speak during an event in September in which he praised ratepayers for electing a diverse group as councillors.
"Some were female, Māori and Pākehā and then he referred to someone with a disability and a homosexual. He did use the term homosexual," McNally alleged.
The Herald has spoken to others who have been present at three separate meetings where Clarke also talked about the composition of the elected council.
One claimed he had heard the term "homosexual" used at two different meetings.
Another claimed Clarke had spoken of "four men, four women and one homosexual" - a claim the chief executive rejected.
"I know what I do say but that's definitely not what I say," Clarke said.
But he would not repeat what he had said or state whether he used the term "homosexual", a form of identification rejected by the Rainbow community for the way it has been used to stigmatise people.
"There are many descriptions for sexual diversity and we'll wait for the process to decide whether that is offensive or not. I'd rather leave it in the hands of those who employ me to make judgments about my performance."
Clarke said: "What I'm celebrating is the diversity of our board and I talk not about not just women and our men but our liberals and conservatives, our Māori and non-Māori, our young and our older members, our other diversities.
"There are no people named and it's a celebration of the diversity that's represented in the 10 people on the board.
"It's meant with absolute goodwill and a celebration of the colour and character that exists in the Far North district. They're all very proud of that."
Clarke said there was an issue which had been "raised with my mayor", John Carter.
He said the issue raised with Carter was "being dealt with through a formal process".
"This is matter for the council.
"There's nothing to hide there and nothing but absolute respect shown for the diversity of our membership.
"This is deeply offensive to me that someone is making these claims about me. There is nothing in my make-up that discriminates against minorities."
The number of board members has dropped to nine after Willow-Jean Prime resigned her seat after becoming a Labour MP.
Mayor John Carter did not respond to calls.
Clarke took on the role of chief executive in April this year, replacing temporary appointment and former Manukau City chief executive Colin Dale.
Clarke served until early this year, rising to the rank of Air Commodore while defence attache to Canberra, Australia.
Robert Ford, who is a board member for Rainbow community support group Outline, said the term "homosexual" was developed in an attempt to classify or "box" a group of people.
"It's not a term that's been adopted by the Rainbow community. It's wrong in so many ways in terms of terminology," he said.
"Why would you do that? Why would you want to separate out someone you believe to be gay?
"If you want to say your council is diverse, just say that."
Ford said alleged comments also failed to account for other members of council.
"He's assuming ... he knows the sexual behaviours of men and women in council. Who knows what people do? And who cares?"