17 Sep 2013

Mayor nomination prompts sacking

1:31 pm on 17 September 2013

A Whangarei District Council employee has been sacked for nominating a candidate for the mayoralty.

Jan Walters-Gleeson signed a nomination form last month for Stan Semenoff, a former mayor of Whangarei who is standing again.

Mrs Walters-Gleeson is the personal assistant to the mayor and chief executive of the Whangarei District Council.

She says she worked for Mr Semenoff when he was mayor and had no conflict of loyalties in nominating him because the current mayor is retiring.

Mrs Walters-Gleeson says she told council managers she had nominated Mr Semenoff and was sacked two weeks later for allegedly failing to demonstrate neutrality.

She is alleging a breach of her rights as an elector and double standards on the part of the council.

She says the chief executive has allowed his executive assistant to edit promotional material for another mayoral candidate, councillor Warwick Syers.

Mr Syers says the staff member did the work for him as a favour without payment, on his own time, and was within council protocols.

Jan Walters-Gleeson says she will fight for her reinstatement.

Meanwhile, Mr Semenoff says chief executive Mark Simpson should be sacked.

He says Mr Simpson has dismissed Mrs Walters-Gleeson for exercising her democratic right.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says it is not illegal for council staff to sign nomination forms for local-body candidates but he would advise them against it.

Mr Yule says council staff are allowed to nominate candidates as long as they are from the same ward, but it is best if they do not because of the perception of a conflict of interest it creates.

United Future leader Peter Dunne wants the Electoral Commission to get involved. He says the commission is normally very diligent in its application of electoral rules and he expects it to be no less diligent in this case.