Outspoken councillors could jeopardise a possible move to Rotorua by Maori Television, according to the deputy mayor, who says the organisation is concerned the council is "unfriendly toward iwi".
In an email exchange sent to the Rotorua Daily Post by councillor Rob Kent, deputy mayor Dave Donaldson warned councillors opposed to the controversial Te Arawa Partnership Proposal their comments could been seen as demonstrating "a pre-determined bias".
The proposal is out for public consultation, with submissions closing on April 17.
In his email to councillors Mr Donaldson stated "feedback has been received that the media attacks on elected members of Rotorua Lakes Council by their fellows over the iwi partnership issue has alarmed some on the board of Maori Television, who see this as a real concern in their forthcoming relocation decision.
"If that proves to be a decisive factor in a decision not to locate in Rotorua, the board of Maori TV will not be shy in expressing it and there exists a clear paper trail of where the responsibility would lie."
In his response, which was supported by councillors Peter Bentley and Glenys Searancke, Mr Kent said the email contained veiled threats "insinuating that should Maori Television elect not to relocate to Rotorua the cause will be publicly blamed on councillors who have voted against the Te Arawa Partnership Proposal".
Mr Kent asked for an apology and a retraction of the email "which is clearly threatening and an abuse of your position".
"Its threats alone are likely be seen by the courts as coercion and as ample grounds for any decision on the matter to be overturned at a judicial review."
He also accused Mr Donaldson of having "the council spin-doctor team" write the email, which Mr Donaldson denied, saying it was written by him and him alone.
Mr Donaldson also said in his email that members of the Rotorua Pro Democracy Society, that includes councillors Mrs Searancke (society chairwoman), Mike McVicker, Mr Bentley and Mr Kent, had falsely accused mayor Steve Chadwick of "ramming through her agenda". He said they'd also stated that, in her election campaign, Mrs Chadwick did not publicly state she wanted council to have a closer relationship with iwi, "yet there is clear evidence that she did so".
"Furthermore, to suggest that the Te Arawa Partnership model risks affording disproportionate power to politicians with Te Arawa affiliations is a slight on the integrity of those politicians and their commitment to their oath of office," Mr Donaldson said.
Mr Kent said councillors were not members of a political party and should be allowed to express their own opinions.
He said there was a nationwide push to "gain Maori influence and power in local authority affairs".
"We are individually elected representatives of the citizens of Rotorua district who have sworn to make decisions in the best interests of our whole community, not just favour minority pressure-groups in that community," he said.
"We are each entitled to our own opinions and views on issues, and, in a democracy, to express those opinions and views publicly in any way we wish."
Maori Television management did not respond to requests for comment by the Rotorua Daily Post.
However, Mrs Chadwick said the situation was "rather sad".
"It does not reflect well on councillors who don't want to work through this process in council. We all need to work through this with an open mind."
Mrs Chadwick said she would not stoop to the level of some councillors who continued to make false accusations about her.
"There is a very healthy debate taking place in our community and I want to hear those views through the submission process," she said.