Tut tutting in Rotorua

Phil Campbell

A simmering standoff between a new councillor Reynold Macpherson and Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick entered the public domain again over the weekend in a Rotorua newspaper.

The spat, not unusual in local body or central government discourses, would normally be regarded as house cleaning.

Except, in one corner Steve Chadwick stands accused to “bully boy” tactics over accusations of racism.

Steve has also been accused by Reynold as “arrogant”, defined as leadership in other worlds.

Further, Reynold has been the subject of a code of conduct complaint, principally because of Rotorua Lakes Council staff had not been treated with “courtesy and respect”. This complaint, it has emerged after a Rotorua Now report on January 8, was lodged by Dave Donaldson, Rotorua’s deputy mayor.

At the time, Reynold had been called to a meeting to discuss his concerns over rates affordability. The meeting did not take place through an apparent misunderstanding.

In the same timeframe, a complaint alleging a breach of the code of conduct had also been lodged.

In response to a Rotorua Now request, Steve says the issues were separate.

Reynold has posted scathing – or since he is an academic, critical – comments the council for which he has stood as mayor (twice) and missed and the council, successful at his first try last October.

Since Reynold represents the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayer group (RDRR) on which he is the secretary he is generally thought to exercise the intellectual drive if not control overall.

The charges he faces are harsher than any penalty he is likely to be lumbered with; therefore, he can say what he likes until relieved of his role by the people at any election. He cannot be unelected by the Mayor.

He and his two RDRR colleagues – a frank Raj Kumar and usually reserved Peter Bentley – sit at the lowest level of Mayoral rankings. They were denied substantial roles in the running of the council for the next three years.

A meeting between Reynold and a senior executive Thomas Colle was cancelled after potentially “defamatory posts” on the RDRR Face Book of page, of which Reynold is the main contributor.

Reynold has since removed “comments that might constitute defamation”. Though deleted, this does not mitigate culpability should action be considered, even if the author of such comments says they were honestly held opinions.

The present row throws up interesting propositions, too. Chief executive Geoff Williams has been accused of impartiality and that Steve Chadwick had “endorsed” Geoff’s attempt to change the subject over rates affordability.

{As a sidelight, Steve campaigned on her success in raising $70million from central government in recent years for essential restoration projects on the Museum and the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre. Had she not done so, she said on the stump, ratepayers would be up for close to 19 per cent rates increases, not the 4.9 per cent struck.}

While Steve Chadwick is deciding how to reach resolution Reynold, the complaint rests with the powerful audit and risk committee, it is difficult to discern penalties.

The code of conduct does not take into account absolute penalties for recalcitrance, only dismissal for offences of a criminal nature.

Reynold is safe it appears. As an academic skilled in rhetoric, he knows his stuff and will be aware of the wet bus ticket with which he will be slapped. It may be, as with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that for the next three years issues are discussed but never resolved.

Barely four months old, the new council term looks a case of one man’s burden against one woman’s iron-will.

Already, one forms an impression Reynold is warming to his task with his inquiring mind.

While he may be working for the common good – though he has not expressly said so – a comment he made on his FB page is startling, hinting at indignant sensitivity.

Saying he will not be silenced, Reynold said he “laughed out loud at [the newspaper] photograph that makes me look as if I am manic and deranged. I will admit to being a stern debater after 40 odd years in academe and senior leadership roles.”

At risk of being accused of verbal contortionism, the picture depicts Reynold as earnest and intense – not at all “manic and deranged” as he has says of the news photograph but also that of a “stern debater”.






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