Clark refusing to take step back

Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark is refusing to step back following the move to strip him of ceremonial duties last week.

The controversy-plagued mayor said he would not be restricted by the vote of his councillors following condemnation for his actions at a volunteer firefighters’ prizegiving.

Cr Ria Bond slammed the mayor for his "unfathomable" response, warning that "no mayor is bigger than local government".

According to section 16 of the council’s code of conduct, councillors had the tools to consider penalties for a breach, and the mayor’s refusal to comply was very strange behaviour, she said.

"He’s blatantly saying to his council, no."

She urged him to reconsider the request, which was intended to be a safety mechanism for the council’s reputation.

"If we want to try and land events for our city, organisations will think twice about that, and that’s a huge concern."

The issue would be raised at this week’s council meeting.

Deputy mayor Tom Campbell was "disappointed" with the mayor’s stance, but said the council did not have the power to compel Mr Clark to step back.

Friday’s resolution instead "strongly recommended" that Mr Clark step back from public engagements on health grounds, he said.

It was inevitable the mayor’s every word would now be under scrutiny, putting him under even more pressure.

"I think it’s a mistake and I hope he reconsiders," Mr Campbell said.

A motion calling for Mr Clark’s resignation failed by a narrow margin at an extraordinary meeting on Friday.

However, a call for his powers to be stripped was green-lit.

The motion read: "Since council has received advice from the mayor that he may suffer from brain fade for the next two years, that council request the mayor delegate the attendance at all formal external events to the deputy mayor or another councillor for the balance of the triennium."

The meeting considered a complaint alleging poor behaviour from Mr Clark at a United Fire Brigades’ Association (UFBA) prizegiving in March.

A code of conduct complaint investigation report contained in the meeting agenda said the UFBA chief executive described the mayor’s comments as ‘hateful and disrespectful rhetoric’.

While the chief executive was not a witness, recollections of those who did attend were "strikingly similar", the report said.

"It is apparent from Mayor Clark’s short statement that his recollection is different to others. But on reflection he has still accepted some of his comments were inappropriate."

The report upheld allegations he made disparaging personal remarks about the MC, made divisive and disrespectful remarks about volunteer firefighters, and made untrue allegations about the UFBA president and MC.

Mr Clark had since apologised for his behaviour, saying he was suffering from "brain fade" following open-heart surgery.

In a letter written by Mr Clark on Saturday, he said he had considered the resolutions passed at the meeting.

He would write to the MC with an apology, but would not step back from his public-facing role.

"I do not accept the restricted role in resolution 8 and I intend to fully perform my mayoral duties as authorised in the Local Government Act.

"Those duties include invites to speak at public meetings and in other forums such as interfacing with international delegations, ministers of the Crown, LGNZ and local councils," he said.

"Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of my values and I like to be transparent, and you are free to express whatever you wish."

Mr Clark declined to speak to the ODT yesterday.