By Matthew Rosenberg, Local Democracy Reporter
An email sent by Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt was accessed by the council’s chief executive and used against him at a behind-closed-doors meeting.
It’s the latest revelation in last Tuesday’s political melee down south, which saw councillors challenge the embattled mayor about a private statement he made to the media an hour before.
Councillor Alex Crackett confirmed the content of the email was raised by chief executive Clare Hadley at the chairs meeting last week, which Shadbolt afterwards called a “let’s attack the mayor fest”.
Hadley responded to questions about what unfolded by confirming the email accounts of the mayor and executive staff at the council all had “more than one support officer with access”.
She did not comment further on how she accessed the content of the email hours before the story was published.
The emailed statement, which the mayor’s partner claims was sent to only one external recipient, labelled the council a “regime” and accused staff of sifting through his personal documents.
Now Shadbolt is concerned staff are looking through his emails too.
“You feel as if you’ve been set up in a way. Yes I’m concerned about my privacy, I feel like it’s been violated,” he said.
“I’m definitely upset if people are going through my emails and not telling me.”
The saga began at 12.55pm last Tuesday when an attributed response from the mayor was emailed by his partner, Asha Dutt.
The message was sent from his work address, but the council is aware of the working relationship between the mayor and Dutt.
In the response, Shadbolt answered questions about storing personal items in council-owned buildings.
Five minutes after the message was sent, the mayor entered a closed chairs meeting held at council, where a late item was brought up about 2pm.
At the time, the mayor incorrectly assumed his comments had already gone live in an article. But it wasn’t until after 6pm the story was actually published.
On Friday, Shadbolt and his partner realised there could be a leak.
Deputy mayor Nobby Clark, who challenged the mayor at the meeting, remained tight-lipped about the situation.
“It came to our attention he made comments to you [Local Democracy Reporting] that were about to be published. So we asked for some explanation to that,” Clark said.
“It doesn’t really matter who raised it.”
Independent observer Jeff Grant was also hesitant to comment, but suggested the message had been leaked.
“Somebody must have given it [the email] to somebody, I assume.”
On Wednesday, Shadbolt described the closed meeting as a “let’s attack the mayor fest”, and said those present took turns to destabilise him.
He claimed the late item was introduced without any prior warning.
On Thursday afternoon, he sent an email to media outlets doubling down on the bullying claims, saying he was disappointed he hadn’t received any contact from elected members or the chief executive about his welfare.
“I feel there is a strategic effort behind closed doors to break me, to which I won’t give in.”
Within an hour, an internal group email was sent out by the chief executive with counselling information. The mayor also received a formal letter from a staff member saying the council took bullying seriously.
Independent observer Lindsay McKenzie would not confirm who raised the item, but said it was raised late, about 2pm.
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