A code of conduct investigation is under way into Wellington City Councillor Simon Woolf.

It follows previously raised concerns his behaviour was "causing staff unnecessary stress and anxiety by publicly criticising them and using emotive and inflammatory language".

Before local body elections, council chief executive Kevin Lavery was left with no choice but to ask for an inquiry led by an external reviewer, sources have confirmed.

It's understood the complaint centres around Woolf wading into staffing employment matters, in particular comments he made about an Employment Relations Authority decision which looked into alleged bullying of a former council staff member.

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Those comments were reported in the Dominion Post on August 21, 2019 in a story about the amount of ratepayer money spent on the workplace bullying claim.

"Councillor Simon Woolf said [Angela] Rampton's ERA fight was a 'David and Goliath' battle that had likely cost much more than $98,000 to resolve when staff time was taken into account.

"Council has so much ratepayer resource and we fight to win at all costs", the article said.

A Wellington City Council spokesman said they had no comment to make at this stage.

Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery has asked for a code of conduct inquiry into councillor Simon Woolf. Photo / WCC
Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery has asked for a code of conduct inquiry into councillor Simon Woolf. Photo / WCC

It's not the first time Woolf has found himself in hot water over comments he's made relating to council staff.

In October 2018, a draft letter penned by Justin Lester, intended for Woolf but which was never sent, outlined a "pattern of behavior" deemed unacceptable for an elected representative.

The letter revealed Lavery had already written to Woolf about the issues in June that year.

Lester wrote in his draft letter that the council's code of conduct clearly required elected representatives to treat employees with courtesy and respect and to avoid publicly criticising employees in any way.

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"The issues related to causing staff unnecessary stress and anxiety by publicly criticising them and using emotive and inflammatory language. Staff were upset and continue to be upset by the ongoing negative comments you have made and continue to make about them in public", he said.

Lester pointed to Woolf's "negative comments" about staff in debates over Shelly Bay and the Island Bay cycleway, as well as "inflammatory" comments about the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Lester referenced an earlier conversation between the pair in his letter and wrote he accepted the resignation of Woolf's portfolios.

"I have diminished confidence in your ability to carry out your portfolio responsibilities in a professional way. I have endeavoured to work with you and support you on each occasion, but this pattern of behaviour has persisted and can no longer continue without consequence."

It's unclear exactly why the letter was never sent. Lester only said at the time he'd worked through the concerns and it was "onwards and upwards from here".

Woolf has been approached for comment.