'It's just not acceptable' – group of Auckland councillors accuse Mayor of not acting on culture of bullying in his office

A group of Auckland councillors have accused Mayor Phil Goff of not acting on a culture of bullying in his office and creating a distrustful working environment.

Phil Goff, however, denied the claims but says he takes the allegations seriously. Source: 1 NEWS

Councillor Christine Fletcher wrote to the mayor today detailing her concerns over "increasingly arrogant and disrespectful behaviour" by his team to councillors, which has led to them becoming "hurt and marginalised".

"I have observed this with considerable concern for over a year now. I have attempted to convey this at various times to you, the deputy mayor and your changing chief of staffs," the email read.

"I voted for you. I want you to be successful in advancing positive policy for Auckland but I want to see better process and an inclusive council workplace where all councillors are treated respectfully."

This afternoon, Ms Fletcher told 1 NEWS she would not sit silent any longer.

"What I have observed is members of this council receiving very, very unsavoury treatment. Dismissive, sarcastic, condemning of any questions being asked. It's just not acceptable.

"He's responsible for his staff and his chairs. We're not running a boys boarding school here," Ms Fletcher added.

Councillor Wayne Walker told 1 NEWS he'd been subject to bullying first hand.

"At a workshop we had the other day I raised a question and I was dismissed out of hand by one of the councillors. The mayor was there. That comment was not challenged."

Councillor Mike Lee was there and "should have intervened" he said.

Mr Goff denied a culture of bullying in his office. He said he takes such allegations seriously but he would need to see evidence for it first.

"Nobody bullies councillors. They're independent, they're strong personalities, and they're in politics. My staff members aren't in politics and they're not in a position to bully and I would not accept it if they were."

The allegations came to light after almost half of the city's councillors signed their name to a letter voicing concerns over Phil Goff’s handling of a $935,000 report into a downtown stadium.

The letter has the support of nine councillors - Wayne Walker, Greg Sayers, John Watson, Cathy Casey, Christine Fletcher, Sharon Stewart, Efeso Collins, Mike Lee and Daniel Newman.

They say part of the report was published almost a year ago and yet it has only just been brought to their attention.

"This in turn has only occurred in response to the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request from the media which has subsequently appealed successfully to the Office of the Ombudsman," the letter read.

"In our view this behaviour falls far short of the sort of transparency and inclusiveness we would expect in such a significant matter as this concerning a potential $1.5 billion stadium".

The councillors went on to claim the incident is not isolated, and expressed concern over Phil Goff’s leadership style, saying he has created a "distrustful political working environment within the council".

Councillor Wayne Walker told 1 NEWS this afternoon all councillors have a right to be informed of big decisions that affect their constituents. "The questions that we need to ask are the questions our constituents are asking us.

"If we're being closed out, equally, they’re being closed out. The decisions we are making are not small decisions. We're talking the sell offs of significant assets across Auckland," he said.

Mr Goff said the full report was made available to councillors two weeks after he received it. He also denied dysfunction within his office. "What pleased me is that the 10 year budget, the most important document that we’ve produced, we got unanimous support for the document as a whole and that was a week ago.

"Every councillor knows that I have an open door and they can discuss any concern at any time. I'm more than happy to work openly and collaboratively and I do. You can see that in the way I my meetings. Everyone gets a fair say. Everyone is treated fairly," Mr Goff said.