Wellington's mayor has been told to apologise after he was found to have breached the council's code of conduct.
Earlier today Wellington City councillors voted to publicly discuss the findings of a code of conduct complaint against Andy Foster.
The complaint, by councillor Jenny Condie, claimed Foster shared potentially defamatory and previously discredited information before a controversial Shelly Bay development vote.
Condie said the mayor called her to his office before the vote to show her information that would change her mind about Shelly Bay.
The information was some notes Foster made from a phone call alleging a former council manager put pressure on staff over their position on Shelly Bay roading issues.
The report found Foster's behaviour breached the council's code of conduct because it could undermine public confidence in the office to which he was elected.
It recommended a letter be written to formally censure Foster as well as issue a private apology to the former council officer.
Councillors agreed today that Foster should apologise in writing to Condie and the relevant current and former council officials involved. He apologised publicly earlier at the meeting.
But councillors decided against formally censuring the mayor.
Councillor Iona Pannett said the mayor has been punished enough.
"It's all over the country that the mayor of the capital city has breached the code of conduct."
She said the consequences for Foster would include the ballot box.
"He may lose his seat over this ... he hasn't acted wisely I hope he has learned from this."
Councillor Nicola Young said she hoped she never saw anything like this process happen at council again.
"Wellingtonians are really bored with Wellington City Council's soap opera."
Councillor Sean Rush said the mayor has been "hammered" enough.
Mayor Andy Foster fronts with his lawyer
Lawyer Richard Caughley fronted with Foster and spoke on his behalf.
Caughley argued what transpired between Foster and Condie was not a breach of the council's code of conduct as it did not undermine public confidence in the office.
"How can a private conversation held on a confidential basis be capable of undermining public confidence?"
For example, Caughley said, being intoxicated in public would breach the code but having too much to drink at home would not.
"You can't undermine public confidence unless you disclose information to the public. He didn't."
Foster said he apologised and accepted responsibility.
"There are very few things in my life that I've been more sorry about than this. It's caused immense damage.
"This process has been horrible and there wasn't a minute that I didn't spend thinking about that process last weekend."
Foster said he was sorry that he shared the notes and for the stress caused.
He said he was not convinced that if he apologised at the time it would have stopped the process. Condie announced she had filed a complaint at the beginning of the Shelly Bay meeting.
"I felt like the gun was being pointed right at me and it was done in the full blaze of the public arena."
Condie addresses colleagues
Condie told her colleagues she has always believed bringing a complaint was the right thing to do and that she would do it again.
"But that doesn't make the experience of being a whistleblower any easier."
She said some of her colleagues said the complaint was an overreaction and one asked her to withdraw it before the debate today.
"Trying to minimise the seriousness of this investigation and its findings will only further erode public trust and confidence."
Condie alleged Foster did not participate in the investigation in good faith as he missed deadlines for feedback and took three months to meet the investigator.
The length of the investigation has caused additional stress to her and her family, she said.
Condie said the issue went to the heart of Foster's competence as the mayor in terms of his ability to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information and reflect objectively on his own judgment.
Mayor's fate to be decided in public
Councillors are today considering the report, deciding whether Foster did breach the council's code of conduct, and any consequences.
Council officials said these matters should be discussed without the public present.
They said matters of such a contentious nature faced the possibility of a challenge by way of judicial review. There was also a privacy risk of someone inadvertently disclosing a name that had been redacted in the report that the public would get after the meeting.
But councillor Fleur Fitzsimons disagreed.
"There is overwhelming public interest in this."
She said the thrust of the Local Government Act was for open, transparent, and accountable decision making.
Councillor Jill Day said having the discussion in public would provide more discipline in deliberations.
"What we say here, we should be happy for other people to hear."
Rush labelled Foster's actions a misdemeanour, and agreed the meeting should be held in public.
"This whole thing has been blown up well out of proportion and we should hold this publicly and expose it."
Councillor Diane Calvert said it was an issue of natural justice and disagreed the matter should be discussed in public.
How councillors voted
In favour of public excluded: Sarah Free, Diane Calvert, Malcolm Sparrow, Simon Woolf
Not in favour: Laurie Foon, Jill Day, Fleur Fitzsimons, Rebecca Matthews, Teri O'Neill, Iona Pannett, Tamatha Paul, Sean Rush, Nicola Young.
Foster and Condie were excluded from the vote.