Council updates  |  3 Oct 2019

The preliminary assessment into the Code of Conduct complaint against Councillor Deon Swiggs has been completed.

Thursday 3 October

Statement from Christchurch City Council Acting Chief Executive Mary Richardson

I have received the independent investigator’s advice on the preliminary assessment of the Code of Conduct complaint against Councillor Swiggs.

The investigator has found two complaints are material and require a full investigation and three complaints have been dismissed as they related to conduct of Councillor Swiggs outside his term of office.  I am obliged by the Code of Conduct to refer one of the complaints to another agency and I have done so.

The investigator will now prepare a report for the Council on the seriousness of the breach in accordance with the Code of Conduct process.

Monday 23 September

Statement from Christchurch City Council Acting Chief Executive Mary Richardson

I have appointed John Matthews, a retired Associate Justice of the High Court, to undertake the preliminary assessment of the Code of Conduct complaint regarding Councillor Swiggs.

Mr Matthews commenced work at the weekend and is treating this matter with urgency.

I will provide further advice once the assessment has been completed.

I believe it is in the best interests of all those involved that I make no further comment until then.

Statement from Mayor Lianne Dalziel

At all times I have acted in good faith believing I had a legal and ethical responsibility to both the complainants and the councillor concerned.

I could only act on the basis of the information I had been given at the time.  I was not provided with the most serious of the allegations which has now been brought to my attention.

Based on the information I had, I spoke to the councillor concerned and advised him that I was very concerned about the issues that had been raised with me.

I took steps to restrict his access to, and involvement with, young people.

The allegations that have now been made and advised to me last Thursday go much further than I was originally told and cast a different light on the situation.

That is why an independent investigator has been appointed by the Acting Chief Executive under the Code of Conduct and I fully support that course of action.

I will make no further comment until the investigation has been completed.

Sunday 22 September

Statement from Mayor Lianne Dalziel

I was approached in May 2019 regarding concerns that a youth group had about Facebook messages from a Councillor to a young person.

I met with representatives of the youth group on 10 June 2019, where they described the pattern of behaviour and messages which they were concerned about.

We agreed that I would speak to the Councillor concerned and that I would put in place some measures to ensure that the Councillor didn’t attend events where he would be in contact with young people.  I would also seek assurances regarding behaviour that was considered inappropriate.  I also undertook to ensure that there was an understanding of the power imbalance that exists between an elected member and a young person.

I met with the youth group again on 24 June 2019 to discuss the next steps.

I explained that the Christchurch City Council Code of Conduct was an extremely poor process for addressing such matters.  There was ultimately no means of resolution other than a vote of the Council, and even then it could only be a recommendation. 

I raised the option of restorative justice, as this might assist a satisfactory resolution.  They weren’t sure about what the best approach would be.

I wasn’t able to tell them what a formal Code of Conduct complaint would mean in terms of naming the young people concerned.

I handed the matter over to the Acting Chief Executive as this point and asked her to also talk to the Councillor about the concerns that had been raised and to meet with the youth group.

I received assurances from the Acting Chief Executive that all the relevant steps that I had asked the Councillor to take were being addressed.  I was also advised that she had instigated specific changes to the post-election induction programme for elected members and that the Code of Conduct was being reviewed and renewed for adoption by the incoming Council.

Friday 20 September

Statement from Christchurch City Council Acting Chief Executive Mary Richardson

I am aware that allegations have been made about a Christchurch City Councillor’s conduct.

These allegations were discussed with me on 31 July 2019 by a third party. At this stage there were no details or evidence provided.

I immediately asked for a meeting to be set up with the complainants concerned, so that I could fully understand the nature of their complaints.

I also implemented a number of actions which were discussed with the complainants’ representatives who endorsed these.

On 4 September 2019, I received a formal, written complaint on the complainants’ behalf. I immediately acknowledged receipt of the complaint and responded in writing on 11 September 2019. On both occasions I reiterated the need for a meeting to be set up with the complainants and said I would make myself available at anytime and at any place.

A representative of the complainants’ arranged a meeting with the complainants which took place on the evening of Tuesday 17 September 2019.

As a result of this meeting, it has been decided to appoint an independent person to do a preliminary assessment to determine whether a full investigation is warranted.

I have discussed these steps with the complainants’ representative and I have also kept the Councillor informed of the actions I am taking.

In fairness to everyone involved, I will not be making any further comment while this complaint is being assessed.