A Waikato Regional councillor has been suspended from attending committee meetings over angry and abusive behaviour.
The council held an emergency meeting this morning and voted in favour of second-term councillor Fred Lichtwark being suspended from all committees, subcommittees and other representative roles until August 31, when the suspension will be reviewed.
The drastic sanction means Lichtwark can only represent his Waikato general constituents and attend and vote at full council meetings.
He will still receive his annual councillor salary of about $60,000.
Following the meeting, Lichtwark said it was a blow for democracy that his vote on committees, subcommittees and workshops has been removed for six months.
He said he did not support the outcome of today's meeting as being fair, saying his colleagues had accused him of using bad language and being aggressive and removed his vote.
"I would accept the fact that I do get angry, but I call it passion and when you are in a debating chamber, boy you debate."
Asked if he needed to tone done his passion, Lichtwark said: "No. I am very passionate about supporting my voters. I have been elected on my achievement."
The decision was made following an independent investigation into three complaints against Cr Lichtwark last November under the Waikato Regional Council Code of Conduct for Elected Members.
A number of recommendations were made by the independent investigator. These were discussed with all involved and it was decided this week that:
• Apologies are required to be made to council and the individual complainants.
• Appropriate training be undertaken to address an angry and abusive communications style.
• Mentoring be provided.
• An email and social media policy be developed for elected members and training be provided on it.
The outcome follows an investigation into three code of conduct complaints against the controversial councillor at the end of last year, laid by three different councillors.
Complainants Pamela Storey, Stu Husband and Barry Quayle would not comment about the complaints when approached by the Herald last year but were understood to be related to the councillor's behaviour towards those elected members.
Then investigation was carried out by former Hamilton mayor and employment lawyer Julie Hardaker at a cost of $8000 so far.
Council chair Russ Rimmington said: "I want to reassure our communities that today's decision does not affect Cr Lichtwark's ability to represent his constituents – he'll continue working with his elected member colleagues and be able to keep up with council business.
"He will continue to receive agendas and be able to sit in on any meeting he wishes to attend, but will not be able to participate unless the committee chair grants permission to do so. He'll be able to raise matters, in line with standing orders, and vote in full council meetings," Rimmington said.
He added: "While this investigation has been underway, councillors have continued to work together in the best interests of our communities.
"Only two weeks ago we came together for some full and frank talks over three days before agreeing our proposed budget and work programme for the next 10 years. I am confident that this robust decision-making can and will continue over the remainder of this term," Cr Rimmington said.
In September last year the council took the rare moving of banning Lichtwark from speaking to most council staff after his rant in a corridor left some employees in tears.
Last year, Dunedin City Councillor Lee Vandervis was told by his council to apologise after being found to have breached the code of conduct when he yelled at the deputy mayor. Vandervis decided against apologising so instead resigned from sitting on the Otago Museum Trust Board and the District Licensing Trust before he was removed.
Code of conduct investigation by local government authorities cost council more than $180,000 last year as they hire independent consultants or lawyers to look at the complaints.
Rotorua councillor Reynold Macpherson was last year also found in breach of the council's code of conduct. When he refused to apologise to the complainants as directed by the council - the mayor did so on his behalf.
The Waikato Regional Council declined to respond to questions put in by the Herald this week until after Thursday's meeting, but would not give a reason for the delay.