- By Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter
funded by New Zealand on Air
Councillor Mike Lee has been ousted from his seat at the Auckland Transport board by his peers.
At the Governing Body meeting on July 27, Mayor Wayne Brown proposed removing Lee from the Auckland Transport (AT) board and replacing him with Cr Chris Darby.
Lee’s removal from the board also sees changes to Lee’s responsibilities at Auckland Council.
Brown appointed him as chair to a new Regional Parks Political Working Group, deputy chair of the Appointments and Performance Committee and removed him from the newly called Revenue, Expenditure and Value Committee.
Several councillors were surprised by the move saying they only were made aware of the proposal the night before.
Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson put forward an amendment to defer the vote and give councillors a chance to discuss the appointment behind closed doors.
“I am not saying the recommendation is wrong. I just know that a number of councillors have come to me and said that they were not aware of your decision and I’d like to have a discussion as a team,” Simpson said.
Cr Christine Fletcher said the proposal was an ambush and that it was unacceptable.
“This whole process has been incredibly clumsy and it’s unacceptable to me. As a council we talk about people’s mental health and being kind. This is so disrespectful,” Fletcher said.
To Brown she said “I expected better from you and I am really disgusted today.”
She said Lee had been left waiting for a month to hear whether “the court of King Wayne” was going to cut him from the board.
Cr Lotu Fuli spoke in support of Simpson’s amendment.
“I think that it will help give some time to engage in a better process and to perhaps heal some of the wounds that seem to exist because I was under a different impression coming in today,” Fuli said.
Cr Mike Lee said he had made no attempts to lobby for the AT board position.
“I have no sense of entitlement for that role, purely to serve and and purely at the behest of yourself and the other members of the Governing Body,” Lee said.
Brown appeared taken aback by Fletcher’s comments and said “I don’t do things to purposefully upset anybody.”
“I think that ambush and disgust is probably a level of emotion slightly above the characterisation of what we are discussing,” Brown said.
He said no one had lobbied him for the role and that supporters of his budget had not been particularly rewarded.
Lee had been a vocal opponent to Brown’s proposal to sell council’s airport shares.
Simpson’s amendment was lost with eight votes in favour, ten against and one abstention from Cr Fletcher.
Lee stepped out of the room during the vote for the amendment and was not counted.
The lost amendment meant the original proposal was back on the table for councillors to vote.
Cr Ken Turner said he was looking forward to sitting on the Regional Parks Political Working Group.
“Lee has the disadvantage of being so knowledgeable on so many subjects and his ability with regional parks is unsurpassed in this room,” Turner said.
Cr John Watson asked his colleagues what Lee had done so wrong to warrant his removal.
“He is brave enough to try and hold a big organisation to account. You don’t get many people that will do that,” Watson said.
“It seems to be particularly objectionable, that his peers would sit around and choose to not continue to hold the confidence of that individual. Why? What has he done? I haven’t heard.”
He emphasised how kindness was being preached at council and not extended to their colleague.
The vote to replace Lee on the AT board was down the middle with two abstentions, eight votes in support and eight against.
Councillors Greg Sayers, Wayne Walker, John Watson, Sharon Stewart, Maurice Williamson were among those who voted against the removal.
The vote to remove Lee was carried on Mayor Brown’s casting vote who said “democracy” after making the decision.
A member of the public shouted that it was not democracy to go against the status quo before leaving the meeting.