18 Oct 2019

Review into monitoring staff Facebook use to be released to Council on Monday

2:13 pm on 18 October 2019

An independent review into Napier City Council staff monitoring of councillors' Facebook posts will be presented to the council on Monday.


Photo: Unsplash / Kon Karampelas

The review will determine why staff did it and what steps should be taken if the situation arises again, according to the Terms of Reference leaked to RNZ.

The review, carried out by Wellington lawyer Peter Chemis, was ordered after emails revealed chief executive Wayne Jack ordered a staff member to trawl through four "renegade" councillors' Facebook posts looking for Code of Conduct breaches.

The four were among the six councillors who had voted against a decision to demolish an old pool in the city centre and build a new $41 million pool on the outskirts of Napier.

The council refused to release the Terms of Reference under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, citing the need to protect staff and councillors from "improper pressure or harassment".

It also said they were being withheld in order to "maintain the privacy of natural persons" and legal privilege.

It also refused to release the cost of the review.

But the leaked document said the purpose of the review was to determine "what action the council staff took in relation to councillors' Facebook posts and why; and whether the four councillors were notified about the LGOIMA request that included reference to their Facebook posts."

Napier City Council chief executive Wayne Jack.

Council CEO Wayne Jack. Photo: Supplied / Napier City Council

That LGOIMA request was initially made by RNZ after previous documents obtained under the Act showed council staff had compiled a dossier of Facebook posts belonging councillor Kirsten Wise.

Further LGOIMA requests revealed four councillors' posts had been monitored, and emails between staff showed them discussing whether Code of Conduct breaches could be brought against them in relation to some of their posts.

The review was expected to be completed by 21 October.

Once finished the council would determine whether any additional steps or processes may be taken if a similar situation occurred again.

"This is not an investigation or a review pursuant to the Code of Conduct for Elected Members. Nor is it an employment process in relation to the Chief Executive or Council staff.

"However, the findings of the review may be relied on by Elected Members if they determine any further steps or action is appropriate," the Terms of Reference said.

A draft report was prepared by Peter Chemis and provided to the council earlier this week and a final report was expected to be provided on Monday.

All councillors had input and agreed to the Terms of Reference last month.

The council said it was "too early to make any statement in relation to costs as these will be dictated by the review process which has yet to be completed."

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