Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan has issued an apology in writing to former Vincent Community Board deputy chairman Russell Garbutt for sending an email critical of Mr Garbutt to a Radio New Zealand journalist.
Mr Cadogan said in a letter to Mr Garbutt on Monday that emailing journalist Mani Dunlop was an “ill-conceived action and one which I regret having taken”.
He has also apologised to the Vincent Community Board, which Mr Garbutt had served for six years before resigning in April, citing the mayor’s interference and ill health as among the reasons.
Mr Garbutt confirmed, when contacted by the Otago Daily Times, he had received the email.
“As you will read from the finding, my position has been totally vindicated. I am very sorry I was placed in the position that I felt that I had to resign. I loved working for my community, but could no longer remain in a role that was directly affecting my health and wellbeing,” Mr Garbutt said.
He would follow up with the mayor and with RNZ once he had recovered from a bout of influenza.
Mr Cadogan’s apology was recommended by investigator and lawyer Steph Dyhrberg, of Wellington, in a report dated June 10.
She found the mayor had acted improperly towards Mr Garbutt in April and breached some of the obligations of the council’s code of conduct.
She also recommended the council should issue a correction to RNZ and consider giving clear guidance on elected members’ rights when commenting to the media or on social media.
However, she felt Mr Cadogan’s code breaches were non-material, did not warrant a fuller investigation and his behaviour had not “crossed into the territory of bullying”.
“I consider the respondent’s [Mr Cadogan’s] actions in using his position to criticise the complainant on a non-CODC issue that he did not personally agree with was not consistent with the obligations created by the [CODC code of conduct].
“I also consider the respondent’s statement [in the email] that ‘his action is not mine to apologise for’ was disrespectful,” Ms Dyhrberg said.
The cracks appeared when Mr Garbutt supported an opinion piece by columnist Joe Bennett on RNZ’s use of te reo Maori.
That prompted Mr Cadogan to send an email to Ms Dunlop saying Mr Garbutt’s view did not reflect that of the Central Otago District Council.
Mr Garbutt complained Mr Cadogan’s email made it clear he was not entitled to hold his own personal views that were contrary to the mayor’s views on the use of te reo.
On Monday, Mr Cadogan told the Vincent Community Board he accepted the report “in totality” and he would apologise face-to-face if Mr Garbutt wished.
“I accept fully I should not have sent the email and I am disappointed with myself for having done so.
“I apologise to you, the board, for this situation and for my part in Russell not being at the table.”
The Vincent Community Board decided on Monday not to call for a by-election because the local authority elections are in October.
A motion by board chairman Martin McPherson to thank Mr Garbutt was unanimously carried.