A formal call for an independent review of Rotorua Lakes Council has been ruled inappropriate to discuss at a council committee as it focused on management issues rather than councillors.
The call was made in the form of a notice of motion at the council's Operations and Monitoring Committee today.
Councillor Peter Bentley, who called for the review, said Rotorua's ratepayers were "confused about the direction in which this council is heading".
He suggested the council engage Peter Winder to review the council.
Winder, a former Local Government NZ chief executive, oversaw reviews at Tauranga City Council and Wellington City Council.
Bentley said there was "a lot of chatter in the public arena about [the] council's direction" and a review would quieten the chatter if concerns were found to be unfounded.
If not, it could provide suggestions for improvement, he said.
"Whatever the outcome, the review will improve the confidence of our ratepayers."
Councillor Raj Kumar, who supported the motion, said a review wouldn't undermine what the council was doing but would give "certainty".
He said some ratepayers thought a review was "a good idea".
"Just a little pulse check just to see if the heart's beating properly."
Committee chairwoman Tania Tapsell said she was "not too willing to open it up for full discussion" and said on Monday the council had approved its 2021 - 2031 Long-term Plan, where an independent auditor had expressed approval for the council's direction.
"That is an independent review in some way."
Councillor Mercia Yates said the council was at governance level and the matters Bentley had raised were with management.
"I just wondered if that would be a point of order that would then be redirected back to the mayor to deal with our chief executive."
Tapsell said it was a "good point".
"I wonder if the correct committee to bring this to would be the chief executive's performance committee."
She asked Bentley if the issues were with management or governance and he confirmed it was management.
Tapsell said she would move the discussion to the public-excluded chief executive's performance committee.
"We do at any stage have the opportunity to discuss this as elected members with the mayor. There's not, in my opinion, too much evidence that there's a need for a full review, when we have already had an independent auditor look at our Long-term Plan.
"If I can put that into perspective of the public's interest, that audit review cost [about] $250,000. I don't think this organisation has shown any evidence of a review that is required further."
Councillor Reynold Macpherson said the auditor's role was restricted to protecting the integrity of the Long-term Plan.
"Not the priorities nor the financial strategy itself."
Tapsell said "that is exactly what the auditor does".
Bentley said several elected members were "excluded" from the chief executive's performance committee.
"It's just a dead duck now."
He then referred to the council's deputy chief executives as "assistant chief executives", prompting a point of order from Chadwick:
"I do wish the member could get the titles right, just get it right for the record."
Tapsell said it was not a point of order.
Chadwick said it was not for elected members "to get into operational issues".
"I don't think the councillor's very clear as to whether you're asking in this rather clumsy motion, for a review of the chief executive, which is all we can ask for, or the organisation, which we can't ask for."
Bentley said: "What I'm asking for, Madam Mayor, is a review of the chief executive."
Chadwick said the council set the directives and expectations of the chief executive and in confidential "feedback to all councillors, so you're quite wrong that you're excluded".
Tapsell said she wanted to respect the right of Bentley to bring forward the motion.
"It hasn't been appropriate to carry forward at this committee currently but if there are some serious concerns or evidence that you have that there is a requirement ... then I think at that time please return with that so we can discuss the matter more specifically, instead of general."
Macpherson then asked that the motion was put to a vote but Tapsell declined.
The issues follow the revelation on June 14 the council had internally appointed seven deputy chief executives, as part of an "organisational realignment".
Two deputy chief executives had received pay rises totalling about $28,000 a year. The change process had so far cost about $52,000 and was expected to rise to $75,000.
The decision had received considerable public backlash and national media attention.
At the time, chief executive Geoff Williams said the changes were an "exciting opportunity" to create a more adaptable and responsive organisation".