Accusations of racism and "bully boy tactics" feature in a series of email exchanges about a Rotorua councillor's alleged code of conduct breaches.
The emails, released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, along with leaked documents, relate to six code of conduct complaints against councillor Reynold Macpherson.
The emails also reveal one of the complaints has been referred to the council's audit and risk committee by the mayor, the next step in the escalation of the code of conduct process.
Macpherson was sticking to his guns on Friday, saying the code of conduct processes against him were a "systematic campaign … intended to shut down any policy conversations about the affordability of rates".
He stood by his comments that Mayor Steve Chadwick had displayed "bully boy tactics" and said accusations of racism aimed at him didn't "match the standard definition of what racism actually is".
The first complaint, made on November 12 by council chief executive Geoff Williams, asserts Macpherson breached the code of conduct by rejecting advice on "the required appropriate relationship with staff" and by making a personal attack on Williams.
Making the complaint to mayor Steve Chadwick and her deputy Dave Donaldson, Williams said he saw Macpherson's behaviour as "being of serious concern", and attached evidence of the alleged breaches.
The email exchange in the attachment showed Macpherson had organised a meeting with chief financial officer Thomas Colle and Williams to discuss rates affordability for November 7.
However, this meeting was cancelled after concerns raised by Colle about potentially defamatory posts on the Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers Facebook (RDRR) page.
Macpherson is a member of the group and a regular poster on the Facebook page.
Macpherson said he had reviewed the post and taken down "comments that might constitute defamation".
"I consider it unacceptable for discussions between myself and senior officials on policy issues to be made contingent on officials' perceived appropriateness of FB comments," Macpherson wrote to Williams and Colle.
He added that any future concerns about Facebook comments should be made directly to the page's administrators.
Williams responded saying meetings between council employees and elected members were at his discretion and he would not allow "contact" between staff and elected members if he could not "be satisfied that they are going to be treated with courtesy and respect".
"To do so would be to fail in my obligation to ensure that [the] council is a good employer.
"You need to recognise that your activities outside [the] council potentially impact on your role as an elected member.
"I do not think it is unreasonable of council staff to associate you with comments made on the RDRR Facebook page."
Williams said it was reasonable for Colle to therefore feel uncomfortable meeting with Macpherson.
Macpherson responded to Williams saying he had removed the "specified comments" and that fact had not been acknowledged.
Further attempts to make him accountable for "critical comments at the site" would be "treated vigorously as political opportunism".
In his complaint, Williams said he "categorically refuted" Macpherson's claim he had acted in a "partial manner" and said his comments demonstrated "a complete disregard" for mutual respect required between councillors and staff.
Chadwick contacted Macpherson on November 13 to discuss the concerns.
Macpherson responded that Chadwick had "endorsed [Williams'] attempt to change the subject" from rates affordability to his conduct, and therefore saw "no reason to accept" her invitation to meet.
Chadwick hit back saying a continuation of his "unreasonable stance" would force her into actions she preferred not to take, and offered to meet once more.
Macpherson replied saying he saw no change in the mayor's "willingness to adopt the chief executive's position" and still would not meet.
"The threat of you taking further unclarified actions on the prior assumption is similarly unreasonable.
"My relations with staff remain cordial and respectful.
"Please desist in what I see as bully boy tactics."
On November 26, this time on mayoral office letterhead, Chadwick responded.
She said she disagreed with Macpherson's position Williams' concerns were a "distraction from the real issue, which for you is rates affordability".
"Mr Williams' concerns were raised in an appropriate manner and it is right I consider them.
"The fact an elected member may be raising an issue … does not mean that they are excused from the requirements of the code of conduct."
Her "strong preference" was to resolve code of conduct issues "informally".
"Given you are a first-term councillor and the triennium has only just begun, I have decided, on balance, not to go down formal channels at present.
"However, should further code of conduct issues arise … it will be necessary to move to a formal process," the letter read.
Also released were emails pertaining to another alleged code of conduct breach by Macpherson regarding a post on the RDRR Facebook page about a Whakarewarewa Forest shuttles tender process.
Four complaints had been received about the post, from Takurua Mutu, John Pakes, Alamoti Te Pou and the most substantive, from deputy mayor Dave Donaldson on December 16.
"[Macpherson] doesn't get past his first paragraph before straying into gross misinformation," Donaldson's complaint read.
Donaldson took issue with claims in the Facebook post regarding the details of the project, which he said were misleading.
He also described the post as "plainly racist".
It was an "insult" to Te Arawa mana and to the council when Macpherson used the "highly offensive and inflammatory sentence" in paragraph six of the post.
The sentence in Macpherson's post read: "nothing from, and with no risk to, the other partners who will hold their lands in perpetuity and will continue parleying [sic] up entitlements from a council ideologically committed to satisfying mana whenua, whatever the demands".
The post had been updated on January 22 and no longer included the phrase "whatever the demands".
"I will leave the complaint there as I am a bit exhausted trying to list all the outrages [Macpherson] has articulated in this post," Donaldson's email concluded.
Chadwick followed up the complaints with Macpherson on December 18.
"I have formed the view there are three areas where you have potentially breached the code of conduct," she wrote.
They were misleading statements, revealing public-excluded council information, and making potentially damaging comments about Takurua Mutu, his business and Central North Island Iwi.
She invited him to a meeting in "early 2020" to discuss the issues raised and "see if an agreement can be reached on how to address them".
"In the meantime, given the seriousness of the complaints I have received I request that you take down the post in question."
On Friday this week, the post was still live on Facebook.
Another complaint, made by Rotorua Lakes Community Board chairman Phill Thomass on January 19, regarded statements Macpherson had made about Thomass and the Rotoiti wastewater treatment plant to a LocalFocus journalist.
Macpherson contacted four complainants, including Thomass, in January to seek clarification on their complaints "in the hope of de-escalation towards resolution".
Chadwick wrote to Macpherson on January 23 to advise him she had referred the complaints about the Whakarewarewa Forest Facebook post to the audit and risk committee, and stating the letters to the complainants were "inappropriate".
Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post, Williams said his complaint was "now closed".
"All councillors and elected members have been advised they are welcome to approach senior staff members for information and guidance on council related work.
"All council staff are also able to refer matters to me if they feel unsure or uncomfortable about any of these interactions."
Chadwick said she had been "unable to reach a resolution amicably" with Macpherson and as the matter was "currently subject to investigation" it would be inappropriate to comment.
Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson echoed that, declining to comment while the audit and risk committee process was under way.