Mayor Goff faces-off angry Councillors

Last week nine Auckland councillors signed a highly publicised letter criticising the leadership style of Auckland mayor Phil Goff, a style that has been labelled secretive and non-inclusive. This was followed by further accusations of bullying and the existence of a corrosive culture within the Auckland Council.

It was prompted by the Mayor declaring councillors could not have a full, unredacted copy of a $923,000 report by consultants PwC into options for a waterfront stadium likely to cost more than $1 billion.
Secret information

Rodney ward councillor Greg Sayers signed the letter along with Councillors Chris Fletcher, Mike Lee, Daniel Newman, Cathy Casey, John Watson, Efeso Collins, Wayne Walker, and Sharon Stewart.

Councillor Sayers was the first Councillor to openly comment on the Mayor’s non-inclusive leadership style in May last year when during intense lobbying to have the controversial accommodation targeted rate voted in, dubbed a “pillow tax”, Goff tried to bully Sayers.

According to Cr Sayers, Mr Goff threatened that there would be future consequences for Sayers and his constituents if Sayers failed to back the rate with his vote. (Mahurangi Matters, 14 June 2017)

The Rodney Councillor says there are other examples including the Mayor unnecessarily chastising him when, in protest over the poor management of projects, Sayers resigned from the Strategic Procurement Committee. According to Mr Sayers the Mayor has also tried to discredit him for prioritising constituent meetings ahead of attending Council meetings. Official records show Cr Sayers attends 99% of the decision-making meetings and Mayor Goff attends 82%.

“I keep asking the tough questions about reining in Council’s overspending, getting financial transparency and controlling its costs,” says Sayers. “That creates a healthy democratic political tension and I always anticipated some push back.”

“The reason why I signed the letter was to signal to the Mayor is he’s running local Council like national Parliament with an A and B team and that’s established a culture of non-inclusiveness that is spilling out into other council committees and local boards. Aucklander’s deserve a cooperative team who are focused on delivering the best return on people’s rates.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for a meeting of all the councillors yesterday for a “free and frank discussion” about their dissatisfaction.

Goff described the meeting, attended by most of the 19 councillors, as constructive with both sides agreeing relations round the council table are a two-way street.

The Councillors who signed the letter are cautiously optimistic about patching up their differences with the mayor as a result of the meeting, says Mr Sayers.

“We were all very pleased that Mr Goff called the meeting” says Sayers. “We are now waiting to see if he takes on the constructive suggestions made to him about how to improve Aucklander’s trust and confidence in Council.”