Chamber of Commerce joins calls for Clark to quit

Nobby Clark. File photo

The Southland Chamber of Commerce has added to a chorus of complaints against Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark, expressing "deep concern" about his behaviour.

Mr Clark will be asked by councillors to resign at an upcoming extraordinary meeting following another code of conduct complaint.

The meeting on Friday has been called as a result of the complaint.

The Southland Chamber of Commerce believed his actions threatened the cultural and economic vitality of the city, chamber chief executive Sheree Carey said in a statement issued this afternoon.

"This incident, as determined by an independent investigation, highlights a pattern of behaviour that not only breaches the expected standard of conduct for our elected city leaders but also jeopardises the reputation and future opportunities for Invercargill, and should not be tolerated."

Ms Carey said "despite Mayor Clark’s health challenges and his subsequent apology, the recurring nature of these incidents indicates a critical need for systemic change within our city’s leadership. The Chamber firmly believes that Invercargill deserves leadership that acts with integrity and respects the dignity of all individuals."

"Given the repeated nature of these incidents and the unwillingness of Mayor Clark to adapt his behaviour despite previous feedback, the Chamber believes that the most responsible course of action would be for Mayor Clark to step aside.” 

Mr Clark had acknowledged his medical condition, which could persist for several years, was impacting his ability to perform his duties to the expected standard, she said.

"Given this admission, his resignation could be a crucial step in protecting Invercargill's reputation and ensuring progressive and representative leadership for our city."

The Southland Business Chamber, while advocating for this change, remained dedicated to working with the city council to promote business growth and foster a vibrant economic and cultural environment in Invercargill, she said.

Clark is under fire for his behaviour at a United Fire Brigades' Association (UFBA) prizegiving dinner as a guest of honour.

UFBA chief executive William Butzbach said Clark mocked, disrespected, degraded, and offended its members, staff, and other guests during the event.

A code of conduct complaint was lodged by council chief executive Michael Day on behalf of the UFBA.

Clark has since apologised in a letter to Butzbach, saying he was suffering from "brain fade" following open heart surgery. He also maintained some of his behaviour was not as described.

"For me, I felt terrible after the dinner and within a couple of days, and well before the complaint was lodged, I sought some specialist advice, as I do not normally present this way at public meetings," his letter said.

As a result of the investigation, Clark was found to be in breach of the council's code of conduct, with the matter to be considered by the council at the extraordinary meeting on Friday.

Councillor Ian Pottinger said the mayor's behaviour has been unacceptable.

"It's brought disrepute to Invercargill and no apology will fix that and that's why I will be asking for his resignation," he said.

"I can only ask, because council can't even by majority of vote sack a mayor. So you can only ask, but the reason is the only fix for what has happened is for him to resign - for the betterment of Invercargill."

Pottinger said there was "no place to hide" for each councillor.

"They will have to speak on Friday. As your job as a councillor you have to have an opinion on this, and you need to state it. Each councillor needs to think very carefully about what they're going to say tomorrow."

Pottinger said he had not spoken to Clark about his intentions.

First term councillor Steve Broad said Clark’s recent behaviour was below the honour and privilege of the role.

“As each councillor makes their decision I’d also ask the mayor to ask himself whether he is medically or otherwise fit to carry that honour at the moment.”

The mayor’s appearance on satirical news show New Zealand Today saw him repeat a racial slur he had been criticised for using at the arts event, and formed the basis of a code of conduct complaint by councillors Pottinger and Ria Bond which is still ongoing.

Clark's actions at the UFBA event will be discussed at an extraordinary council meeting on Friday afternoon.

He did not wish to comment on the requests for his resignation.

In April, Pottinger and another councillor Ria Bond filed a code of conduct complaint against Clark after his appearance on Guy Williams' satirical news show New Zealand Today.

During his interview with Williams - described as "a train wreck" by one of his elected members - he defended previous instances where he has used the N-word and again repeated the slur.

Clark first courted controversy last year when he used the word at an Art Foundation event, supposedly to make a point around "tolerance" and "freedom of expression" within the art world.

He doubled-down on the matter during his appearance on the March 21 episode of New Zealand Today.

"If you had some rap music that come in, where every second word was n***, would that be okay? Certainly not to me," Clark said.

"Would you allow me to stop that."

Clark claimed to hate the term but again used the slur when citing the name of an Invercargill street gang.

Invercargill City Council said Clark did not wish to comment ahead of Friday's meeting.

- Additional reporting RNZ