Wellington City Council is refusing to release the details of any complaints made about Simon Woolf's behavior.

The move has been described as "bizarre" by one local government expert because the reason for not releasing the information was cited as the need to protect the privacy of an individual.

But in this case, the individual is a politician.

Councillor Woolf is facing a code of conduct investigation, which follows previously raised concerns his behaviour was "causing staff unnecessary stress and anxiety by publicly criticising them and using emotive and inflammatory language".

New mayor Andy Foster wants to draw a line under the whole thing and has confirmed a meeting is being held towards the end of this week.


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.

The Herald requested all complaints from both elected members and staff about Woolf's conduct over the past triennium, under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

But the council has refused to release the information to ensure the privacy of an individual- in this case Woolf- is protected.

"We do not consider his right to privacy is outweighed by the public interest test in the Act."

Dr Dean Knight, an associate professor at Victoria University's faculty of law, said the reasoning was bizarre and surprising.

The hint was in the title, councillors hold positions of public office, they know they have a reduced claim to privacy when taking on that role, he said.

"And in any event, given these complaints are against a councillor, there's a public interest in knowing about them, which I would have thought would have easily outweighed any reduced or low-level claim to privacy."


The issue of privacy was more about complainants or staff, he said.

"But that can all be dealt with through redactions and selective release or statistical information about the number of complaints or their timing. That's all relevant to the conduct in public office of the councillor, which is of interest to the ratepayers and other people in the district."

Woolf said he was glad the council had refused the request.

"There are certain times where natural justice needs to take its course. It shouldn't be trial by media."

Woolf said he felt he was being bullied for doing his job and standing up.

Wellington City Council's code of conduct states elected members should avoid publicly criticising any employee in any way, but especially in ways that reflect on the competence and integrity of the employee.

There are several possible penalties and actions when a material breach is found according to Local Government New Zealand's Code of Conduct Guidelines.

These include a letter of censure, a request for an apology, removal of council-funded privileges, removal of responsibilities and a vote of no confidence.

The code of conduct investigation set in motion under former mayor Justin Lester has now landed on Foster's plate.

He wants to rule a line under it and move forward.

"I want to understand what has actually happened and who has said what to who and whether we actually need to do anything further about it."

Foster said he supported the complaints information being withheld while they went through this process.

The council's position on the information's release could be reconsidered once that process is completed, he said.

The Herald has written to the Office of the Ombudsman asking for a review of the council's decision not to release the complaints.