22 Nov 2017

Journalist on explicit message: 'I've reached my limit'

2:16 pm on 22 November 2017

A Hamilton city councillor has apologised for sending a sexually explicit message to a woman, which he says was a joke.

Freelance journalist Angela Cuming.

Freelance journalist Angela Cuming. Photo: Facebook

The message was a play on the surname of journalist Angela Cuming who received it over Facebook from first-time councillor Mark Bunting.

She said she initially thought Mr Bunting's Facebook account had been hacked and the message was spam, but was told by Mr Bunting it was a joke.

He has since apologised, calling the incident a "dumb mistake".

Hamilton mayor Andrew King said a private disciplinary hearing on the incident would take place on Friday.

Ms Cuming said she made it public because Mr Bunting was in a position of power.

"You know I've reached my limit. I'm speaking for all the female journalists and all the women out there that cop jokes like this on a daily basis. Stop it, they're not funny, they never were and they never will be," she said.

The mother of three had been lobbying the council over its decision not to build new playgrounds in Hamilton.

She said her dealings with Mr Bunting had been "strictly professional" and over council matters.

"I always thought of him to be a decent person, and someone who was passionate about Hamilton.

"No way was this any sort of message that I would have expected from him, in any way, shape or form."

She told Morning Report she felt "hurt" and "humiliated".

"I sat there in the kitchen and I put my head in my hands and I cried."

Mr Bunting said he sent the message to Ms Cuming as a joke.

"I immediately apologised, because the last thing you want to do is offend your friend and I just can't seem to find the right way to apologise," he said.

"The next thing I'm getting beaten up by social media everywhere.

"I misinterpreted the friendship, and I think the reaction is a little bit over the top, but it is what it is."

Mr Bunting said he did not feel he had done the city proud.

"I've worked really hard over many years to uphold the name of the Waikato community so I've definitely done no-one any favours here.

"Whether it's a resignation offence, I have no idea. That's not my call. If I'm no longer an effective councillor, that's for other people to decide."

Ms Cuming said if Mr Bunting really was a friend he would have picked up the phone and called her yesterday.

"Yes he has apologised, and to his credit he did so immediately, but I don't think councillor Bunting exactly understands what he's apologising for.

"According to him he has offended a mate and it looks like I have broken some sort of 'bro code' by not laughing this off and slapping him on the back and then offering to buy him a drink to make amends.

"And don't think he really understands the gravitas of what he's done.

"And to say 'well look now I'm being ripped to pieces on social media', well councillor Bunting you know who else is being ripped to pieces on social media this morning? Me by all your supporters and followers on Facebook and Twitter that are saying all sorts of terrible things about me and to me.

Ms Cuming said he needed to stop feeling so sorry for himself.

And she said she hoped the council would take it seriously.

"It's 2017, it was never okay to make jokes like this but particularly not okay now because we know how serious they are and we know the lasting damage that they do.

This afternoon the council said a formal complaint had now been laid.

"I have met with councillor Bunting this morning and, while I note he has apologised unreservedly, I have been very clear that I expect high standards of behaviour from our councillors," mayor Andrew King said.

"I have spoken with all councillors earlier this year about their roles in our community, whether on council business or not, and will be reinforcing this message again very strongly."

Mr King said the committee this Friday would include himself and two others, and Mr Bunting would attend.

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