A Rotorua councillor's online comments about Sir Howard Morrison have been labelled "disgusting" by another councillor and the late entertainer's son, who said it was an attempt to "tarnish" his "iconic" father's name.
At a Rotorua Lakes Council meeting on Thursday, Trevor Maxwell said he believed comments on social media by fellow councillor Reynold Macpherson about revelations in a new book on Morrison's life were "offensive" and "disgusting".
"I want to know how we can handle [what I believe to be] offensive remarks, and disgusting remarks, by councillor Reynold Macpherson regarding Whānau Morrison, who are very upset."
Macpherson's October 27 post questioned whether Rotorua's Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre should be renamed following what he described as "controversies" arising from the recently published book, How Great Thou Art Sir Howard Morrison - the Untold Story.
The book was written by the late entertainer's son, Howie Morrison Jnr.
Last week, the Rotorua Daily Post ran an interview with Howie Morrison Jnr, reporting that his new book touched on rumours of adultery and behind the scenes dramas, and challenges the singer had with sharing the spotlight.
In his post, Macpherson described the elder Morrison as being "consumed by narcissism" and said the book "laid bare" the "sordid weaknesses of a great entertainer…leaving a legacy of deep shame, confirming what Rotorua has known for years."
"Sir Howard was, simultaneously, a significant role model for would-be entertainers, an egocentric philanderer who disrespected women in general, and a person who lacked the emotional intelligence to respect his wife and his marriage and his extensive family."
Chairing the meeting, mayor Steve Chadwick said a code of conduct complaint could be made to the council if the family wanted to, but it "doesn't seem to be their way".
"We should all take great care of what is written on social media. We've said that in the code of conduct."
Maxwell said the whānau wouldn't want to complain.
"It costs ratepayers money. We also know councillor Reynold's record already costing us $60,000 through five complaints that he wouldn't answer. It costs us money, the whānau don't want to go through this but they find his actions … disgusting. [In my opinion it is] the worst I've had on my time on [the] council."
Maxwell has been a councillor since 1977.
Macpherson raised a point of order and said he did not wish to comment on what Maxwell had said.
"I think the posts speak for themselves."
Contacted by the Rotorua Daily Post after the meeting, Howie Morrison jnr said he had not been aware of Macpherson's post but upon hearing his comments was "dumbfounded".
He said, in his view, Macpherson has "taken it upon himself to come up with his own version of the story.
"I'm just dumbfounded he would say something like that when Dad's done so much for Rotorua, not only Rotorua but the whole of the country."
Morrison Jnr said, in his view, Macpherson comments were "just another dig at Māoridom" and said he didn't think there was any ill-will in the community towards his father.
Morrison Jnr said he would not complain to the council about Macpherson's post as it would be "a waste of breath".
"He's just baiting the family to engage in the conversation that is not even significant to the mana of my dad," he said, expressing his opinion.
He agreed with Maxwell's opinion that Macpherson's post was "disgusting" and "offensive" and he did not believe Macpherson had read his book.
"We won't engage in anything because we're not going to stoop to his level.
"[In my opinion] he's trying to tarnish a man's name who was so iconic right throughout the country and even Australasia. The majority of people who supported Dad would be disgusted as well," he said, expressing his opinion.
After the meeting and in response to the criticism against him, Macpherson told the Rotorua Daily Post he had read Morrison's book and, in his opinion, if Morrison had read his social media post he might have agreed with the views expressed in it.
"It is simply not true that I dishonoured Sir Howard's contributions or mana as an entertainer nationally and internationally. It was mahi tinihanga - deceptive - to claim that it was "just another dig at Māoridom'."
Macpherson said, in his view, it was "sad" Howie Morrison Jnr had "simply adopted Councillor Maxwell's political description and amoral judgements about the post".
Macpherson believed the broader community took "a very different view", saying the "overwhelming majority" of responses to his post agreed it was time to rename the Sir
Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre due to an "absence of public consultation" by a "recently empowered group led by the mayor and Sir Owen Glenn's offer of $3m to secure naming rights in favour of his [friend], Sir Howard.
"Most want [it] to be renamed the Rotorua Performing Arts Centre or the Civic Centre.
"In my opinion, the controversy has highlighted a deep and unresolved values clash in our community.
"The original name, the Civic Centre, reflected its role as the home of local government, with civics referring to the knowledge, skills and shared expectations of citizens who participate in, and sustain, democracies."
He said the renaming of the building had "signalled the beginning of 'popularism', party-political localism, big money and co-governance".
"It is time for a change."