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Tipping point: 'Traumatised' Shadbolt claims workplace bullying

Aug 13, 2021

Embattled Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt says he has been left traumatised by workplace bullying as his deputy pushes for a vote of no confidence against him.

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt he had "suffered humiliation" by having a staff member go through his possessions. Photo: Otago Daily Times / Stephen Jaquiery

On Tuesday, Sir Tim attended a closed meeting where the issue of him storing personal items in council-owned buildings was brought to the fore.

Councillors at the meeting were upset about a media statement Sir Tim made on the issue, which labelled the council a "regime".

Asked to retract his comments, the mayor instead stood by what he said.

Sir Tim described the meeting as a "let's-attack-the-mayor fest", and said he had been left humiliated by how the issue was handled.

"A vote of no confidence is no reflection of my ability as mayor but more an illustration of the determined workplace bullying I face every day," he said.

"These attacks are regular, behind closed doors and become more intense and prolonged with each week."

Sir Tim said the way his deputy Nobby Clark spoke about the storage arrangement to media painted him as a "demented-type hoarder".

Clark, who yesterday dispelled the mayor's concern that a vote of no confidence had already been launched, said today he felt like it was on track to happen.

In the wash up of yesterday's events, he indicated the situation had reached a tipping point.

"I think we should come to a decision fairly shortly we have a vote of no confidence," Clark said, stressing he was speaking personally and not on behalf of the chairs' group.

"I've stepped up to this role [of deputy], but I've paid a huge cost emotionally.

''He does damage to our community reputation."

The melee began just before 1pm on Tuesday afternoon when Local Democracy Reporting received a response from the mayor in relation to his "hoarding" at council-owned properties across the city.

In an email, Sir Tim said he had "suffered humiliation" by having a staff member go through his possessions.

He also described the council as a "regime".

Minutes later, Sir Tim entered the closed meeting, which ultimately turned sour when his media response was read out.

Sir Tim later conceded the email had been sent by partner Asha Dutt, but said he had dictated what to write.

He would not back down on its contents when challenged during the meeting.

Clark said councillors present were upset because the mayor's response said "a staff member" had cleared out his items, leaving the chief executive "unfairly open to criticism".

Awarua Farmhouse is a council-owned building that his storing some of Sir Tim Shadbolt's personal items. Photo: LDR / Matthew Rosenberg

Along with the help of Dutt, the mayor had actually been assisted in the cleanup job by Clark, an elected member.

Sir Tim left the meeting thinking a vote of no confidence had been launched against him.

Clark said things had come to a head yesterday because the councillors present did not feel it was the first time the mayor had bent the truth.

"I don't accept that this is Tim's failing memory. She [Dutt] wrote that response, he [Shadbolt] acknowledged that yesterday.

"I think the mayor's future going forward is to play the victim in all of this so that he gets the sympathy vote from ratepayers."

Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley did not wish to comment on whether she felt the mayor's statement painted her in a bad light.

A vote of no confidence, or a motion of no confidence, can only be raised at a full meeting of council, a council spokesman said.

A motion or vote of no confidence has no repercussions.

It is simply a way for a council as a whole to publicly express that it does not have faith in the mayor.

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

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