In­ves­ti­ga­tion canned

At­tempt to in­ves­ti­gate so­cial me­dia at­tacks against mayor shut down

Horowhenua Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE -

Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen's call for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into so­cial me­dia at­tacks against him was shot down at a coun­cil meet­ing on Wednesday, and Feyen was in­stead told to step up as leader of the district.

In front of a full pub­lic gallery, Feyen was chal­lenged over his own Face­book page, and told he needed to stop get­ting side­tracked so he could get on with the job of be­ing mayor.

Ten­sions rose as the mayor claimed Face­book pages such as The Cold Hard Truth and In Line With The Nine had al­lowed defam­a­tory com­ments against him that he said were ap­palling and which he be­lieved came from coun­cil­lors, coun­cil staff and their fam­i­lies. He said he be­lieved in­for­ma­tion on the pages had been leaked from within the coun­cil.

Feyen said what was be­ing posted was “dis­gust­ing” and de­tracted from pos­i­tive work the coun­cil could be do­ing.

He said ad­min­is­tra­tors of the page hid be­hind pseu­do­nyms.

“They're not big enough to look you in the face and come into the of­fice and have a talk,” he said.

“It's one thing for peo­ple to say some aw­ful things, [but] when you ac­tu­ally have peo­ple from within the coun­cil [do­ing this], it's just flip­ping dis­gust­ing. That is where I see a risk to the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

How­ever he did not present any ex­am­ples of posts he claimed were defam­a­tory or breached the Harm­ful Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act.

Feyen claimed the pages har­boured hate speech, but coun­cil­lor Neville Gim­blett said that a def­i­ni­tion of that term meant speech pro­mot­ing vi­o­lence, and the only place he had seen com­ments to that ef­fect were on the mayor's own page.

Feyen said he al­lowed peo­ple free­dom of speech on his page, but had oc­ca­sion­ally told them to “be­have”. He did not deny Gim­blett's claim.

Gim­blett told Feyen that as some­one in po­lit­i­cal pub­lic of­fice, neg­a­tive com­ments were some­thing that had to be put up with, un­less they crossed the line into defama­tion.

Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop said Feyen was the risk to the coun­cil and seemed to want ev­ery­one in­ves­ti­gated ex­cept him­self.

“It seems ev­ery­one in this district is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­cept your­self, Mr Mayor,” he said.

“You want to play by your own rules and ev­ery­one who has a dif­fer­ent view has to play by a dif­fer­ent set.”

Bishop said Feyen had been ad­vised by coun­cil, and at “mayor school” not to use his own so­cial me­dia page and to stick to the of­fi­cial coun­cil one, but that Feyen had ig­nored this ad­vice.

He said Feyen was pos­tur­ing and that the coun­cil and com­mu­nity had be­come numb to his “con­tin­ued an­tics”. He said the may­oralty had be­come a failed ex­per­i­ment.

“I se­ri­ously ask you to re­con­sider your po­si­tion as leader of this com­mu­nity,” Bishop said.

Coun­cil­lor Vic­to­ria Kaye Simmons also ques­tioned Feyen's lead­er­ship.

She asked why he did not at­tend a com­mit­tee set up to man­age his re­la­tion­ship with the coun­cil's chief ex­ec­u­tive David Clap­per­ton but had made claims on so­cial me­dia that he was kept in the dark over some coun­cil ac­tiv­i­ties.

Feyen con­firmed he did not at­tend the com­mit­tee, and said he would not do so if he had a chief ex­ec­u­tive­who could not talk with him one-to-one.

He said a vlog he had made claim­ing to have been de­lib­er­ately ex­cluded from an Older Per­sons Net­work meet­ing had been ac­cu­rate as he had not re­ceived ad­vice about the sched­ul­ing.

How­ever Kaye-Simmons said all elected mem­bers had seen the week's sched­ule in their reg­u­lar

weekly email.

Feyen said he had not re­ceived it and they could call him or his per­sonal as­sis­tant a liar if they wanted.

Coun­cil­lor Jo Ma­son de­fined the role of a coun­cil in meet­ing the needs of a com­mu­nity un­der lo­cal govern­ment leg­is­la­tion, but that it did not state any­where that they had a role in con­trol­ling the opin­ions of oth­ers through so­cial me­dia.

“Sadly, your Face­book page hosts com­ments criticising coun­cil­lors, the CE, the press and many oth­ers,” she said.

“Words like “cor­rupt jerks” are hosted there.”

Ma­son said the may­oral role was to pro­vide lead­er­ship to elected mem­bers and the com­mu­nity and to per­form civic du­ties, as well as to meet coun­cil’s plans, poli­cies and bud­gets.

“What we need to do is fo­cus on the role we are here for, this Long Term Plan you re­fused to sign [and] stop be­ing side­tracked by these un­pleas­ant, some­what per­sonal agen­das that de­tract from what we’re here to do,” she said. “I tend to be­lieve you get what you fo­cus on, so let’s fo­cus on what we’re here to do — lead this district.

Ross Camp­bell said he was as­tounded at some of the things said around the coun­cil ta­ble and that an ad­ver­tise­ment early in the mayor’s term by nine coun­cil­lors had said they would not sup­port him from the start, which was the root of much of the prob­lem.

Bishop said that was a mis­truth, and it had re­lated to the is­sue of Feyen’s calls for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions into whether the coun­cil build­ing was earth­quake prone — an­other bone of con­tention be­tween the mayor and coun­cil.

Camp­bell said the in­abil­ity of some to recog­nise the mayor and the right that he has was go­ing to con­tinue.

“Re­ally, it’s there and you all know it’s there,” he said.

He said he would vote for the no­tice of mo­tion about an on­line in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but he knew it wouldn’t fix any­thing.

The mo­tion was lost with just Feyen and coun­cil­lor Ross Camp­bell vot­ing for it.

It was one of four mo­tions the mayor tabled; the oth­ers were that livestream­ing of coun­cil meet­ings should be “un­in­ter­rupted and unedited“on Face­book, that he should have ac­cess to all draft coun­cil agen­das be­fore they are pub­licly re­leased, and that the coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive should ac­cept an of­fer from the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment (MBIE) to con­duct fur­ther struc­tural as­sess­ments of the coun­cil build­ing in Levin.

The coun­cil de­cided livestreams would con­tinue but not on Face­book, Feyen could re­ceive a draft of agen­das be­fore meet­ings and they would not con­duct fur­ther build­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions with MBIE.

HDC Mayor Michael Feyen

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