In general business of the City Governance Committee meeting held today, Cr Natalie Willcocks tabled and moved that the appointment of the Deputy Mayor be appointed in next week’s ordinary council meeting by the following motion: ‘That council resolve to conduct the appointment of the Deputy Mayor at the ordinary council meeting on 26 April 2023 by way of secret ballot or a closed ballot.’
Previously, votes have been carried out closed with the state legislation open to interpretation of the rule allowing both actions to happen. Also, prior to the current council taking office in 2020, a Deputy Mayor was elected by councillors after the public vote, and they maintained that position for four years.
This changed when the current councillors decided to make a Deputy Mayor appointment annually giving more a chance to hold the title. This has also seen the vote for the position openly discussed in ordinary council meetings followed by a vote.
Cr Willcocks continued: “As a part of the democratic voting process it has always been a personal reflection of one’s own decision. All the voting processes across the nation that I know of are done by a secret ballot and I don’t think this vote should be any different.
“The reasoning for this type of ballot allows for the recording of the voter’s personal viewpoint in the decision making process and it serves no purpose to have it show of open hands for the position of Deputy Mayor when we all have different thoughts and I believe we need to ensure and maintain our integrity and respect for one another in this process.
“So, I strongly encourage everyone to maintain support for this motion.”
This was the beginning of the debate which as seen several different opinions form on if to make/keep the vote public.
Cr Lisa Bradley said: “I think we’ve all signed, as councillors, to be open and transparent to the community.”
“I am going to be opposed to the this. As a councillor you have been put up under the local government act to be open and transparent. Your vote should be open and transparent.”
Through further debate, Cr Stemp questioned why the ballot under discussion.
“Why do we have to do this this year when we have always done it by secret ballot previously, what has changed?” asked Cr Stemp.
The main reason was due to Cr Laurie Koranski emailing fellow councillors asking about the subject which Mayor Darren Power than took further to ensure it was discussed at the meeting.
Mayor Power said that the Local Government Act in regard to Deputy Mayor says it has to be transparent, therefore, to emphasise that if you wanted to do a secret ballot you would have to get a resolution at council.
“I got that from the acting CEO,” say Mayor Power.
Cr Stemp returned asking: “So by doing by secret ballot is it being transparent since it’s going against the act?”
Mayor Power replied: “The suggestion is that it’s not against the act, but it is the determination of the council.”
The elevated debate continued between councillors and to ensure clarification on points the city appointed solicitor joined the meeting.
Currently the names of councillors who have put their hand up to be Deputy Mayor is unknown, however Cr Jon Raven slipped and said that three councillors are known to be in the running.
“I’m comfortable with the secret ballot because that’s how we’ve done it for every other vote,” said Cr Raven.
“To change now, especially just before an election is fraught, not just for the candidates, but also for the council and community because the media and the public will sit there and go this is a divided council, you must divide when you have three candidates, you have no choice.
“Well sorry, between as many candidates as there possible could be because nominations aren’t closed yet.
“We could have 12 candidates and we would be forced to divide because we would have no choice, but that doesn’t mean this council is divided.”
After more than 40 minutes of back and forth, the motion was put to vote to all councillors and the mayor.
In favour of the secret vote was Cr Russell, Cr Raven, Cr Frazer, Cr Heremaia, Cr Bannan, Cr Stemp, and Cr Willcocks.
Mayor Power, Cr Bradley, and Cr Hall all abstained from the vote while Cr Lane, Cr Koranski, and Cr Murphy voted against.
The vote was carried that the vote for Deputy Mayor will be held as a secret vote. Despite all of this, the public will learn who will be the finial Deputy Mayor of this term next Wednesday regardless of not seeing who voted for who.