A Waikato District councillor told a colleague to "get on her broomstick" and that "she would keep" after she asked him to be quiet in the councillor's lounge.
Waikato District Council has finally released a $9000 external investigation report into a code of conduct complaint made by councillor Jan Sedgwick against councillor Frank McInally in March last year after the Ombudsman intervened.
The council had repeatedly refused the Herald's request to release the report, arguing elected members were entitled to personal privacy.
But following a year-long investigation, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier sided with the Herald and found the public interest outweighed the low privacy interests and ordered the council to release the report.
The councillors had been in the councillors' lounge for an informal meeting when McInally turned away from the conversation between Mayor Allan Sanson and another councillor and started speaking to someone else, according to the report findings by law firm Tompkins Wake.
Sedgwick who was seated at the other end of the room asked McInally, who admitted in the report he's slightly deaf so can speak above normal volumes, to be quiet.
McInally replied that he could talk if he wanted to, which prompted Sedgwick to ask him to be quiet again.
He replied: "Get on your broomstick."
Sedgwick then told him to stop being crass and claimed he said in an "arrogant, bullying and vicious" tone, "You will keep".
McInally denies saying those three words and said none of the words were said unpleasantly.
The three other councillors interviewed confirmed he had said "You will keep", but had different opinions as to whether it was said in a threatening way.
In his findings, lawyer Mark Hammond found McInally's comments had breached the part in the councillor's code which states councillors should treat each other with respect and courtesy. Elected members had been concerned about the verbal interaction and felt distinctly uncomfortable by it.
It was recommended and agreed that McInally should make a "genuine and appropriate" apology to all elected members in private and this could include mentioning the stress he was under at the time due to a family member's illness.
When asked by the Herald about the complaint in December last year, McInally denied the substance of complaint and Sanson said he hadn't "necessarily" heard it.
McInally confirmed to the Herald tonight that he had apologised to elected members, but stood by the fact it was nothing to do with council because he had told Sedgwick to hop on her broomstick outside of a council meeting.
Sedgwick told the Herald this was the first time she had seen the full report and was satisfied it was a fair reflection of what happened at the time. She did not regret making the complaint and was happy the council's response endorsed her position about professional behaviour.
Waikato District Council chief executive Gavin Ion said in a statement he accepted the Ombudsman's decision, but stood by the council's robust process for assessing information and would not be making any changes in light of the findings.
He said the council had taken the view that there was good reason to withhold the information to protect personal privacy and that there was nothing in the legislation to suggest it should have been made public.
"We always start from a position of transparency and accountability, however legislation does allow for the protection of the privacy of individuals. Council complies fully with its legal obligations as set out under the LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information Act)."
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