Houlahan tried to get complaint withdrawn

Carmen Houlahan. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Carmen Houlahan. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
A Dunedin city councillor at the centre of a code of conduct complaint sent an apologetic email to the complainer attempting to arrange a meeting during the investigation and asking for the complaint to be withdrawn, correspondence can reveal.

Correspondence released to the Otago Daily Times under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act showed that Cr Carmen Houlahan, who was later found to have breached the council’s code of conduct after she sent a series of critical texts to Cr Sophie Barker on September 8 and 9, sent an email to Cr Barker on November 21 asking for a meeting.

"I have wanted us to speak to each other either face to face or on the phone in the hope we can resolve this," the email said.

"I am very sorry I sent you the text. It was not nice and not something I even agree with."

In the email, Cr Houlahan told Cr Barker that she missed their chats, and was "worried about what this whole process will do to our ongoing relationship as we still have to work together for the next two years".

"Also it is divisive in council. I wish we had sat down and talked this out. Obviously, I regret sending these texts. I am human and I made some mistakes and said some things I regret.

"My hope is that you will think on this and consider withdrawing your complaint against me but if you want to continue that is your choice. I will abide by whatever decision you decide."

The ODT approached Cr Houlahan about the matter yesterday.

Sophie Barker
Sophie Barker
Asked whether emotion got the better of her, and whether she felt her relationship with Cr Barker could be mended, she replied: "the apology answers most of these questions".

"I have accepted the findings of the code of conduct and am moving on. I look forward to working with council and Cr Barker over the next two years for the betterment of our city."

Cr Barker and Cr Jim O’Malley filed a code of conduct complaint against Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich after he made comments during an interview by Radio New Zealand relating to the censure of Strath Taieri Community Board chairman Barry Williams for making a racist remark.

Cr Houlahan sent a flurry of texts to Cr Barker in response, calling her actions, among other things, "planned, cold, calculated and nasty" and questioning how she could be "that stupid".

This led to Cr Barker lodging a code of conduct complaint against Cr Houlahan.

Investigator Jordan Boyle, a partner in Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law, said Mr Radich’s comments on the radio minimised Mr Williams’ actions.

Meanwhile, a parallel investigation found Cr Houlahan had also brought herself into disrepute over multiple "unacceptable" texts.

Cr Houlahan has since sent a formal apology to Cr Barker apologising for her actions.