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Former Councillor Exasperated At Code of Conduct Decision

“It’s like lobbing a grenade and running away.”

That from former city councillor Deon Swiggs who is exasperated with the Council’s decision on the Code of Conduct investigation into allegations of misconduct against him.

Council chief executive Dawn Baxendale’s written to Swiggs’ senior legal counsel Phil J Shamy this afternoon outlining the decision – that letter is attached.

News of the Code of Conduct investigation was leaked to media, the same day voting papers were posted to Christchurch residents.

Investigator John Matthews reviewed summaries of five complaints that had been prepared by Canterbury Youth Workers’ Collective Manager Penny Prescott. She also represented the complainants’ during the Code of Conduct process.

The complainants were four males (now aged 15, 21, 23, 25 or 26) and a female (aged 25).

Matthews did not interview the complainants nor Mr Swiggs but found two claims had ‘materiality’ and required further investigation. Matthews put that investigation on hold until after the council election, despite a request from Mr Swiggs to hold a full hearing pre-election to enable him to clear his name.

Deon Swiggs says the whole process was flawed from the start.

“As Mr Shamy has indicated, the whole process dealt me a hand that was unjust and left me in an impossible position at a critical time in an election cycle.”

Mr Shamy has written to the council multiple times since the election. He asked that, if the council were to drop its investigation, that it also quash the finding of materiality.

“The fact they are letting the materiality finding stand, leaves a black mark against my name. I will now look at ways to clear this, including filing for a High Court judicial review of the council’s process,” says Mr Swiggs.

The complainants first went to the council in May.

“The Code of Conduct investigation should have been launched then so this could have been dealt with well before the election and not impacted the result.”

“This was an election that many expected me to comfortably win; the damage this did to my campaign is evident in the result. What the council essentially did was lob a grenade and run away.”

Deon Swiggs says in a recent media release Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she told the complainants that the ‘Code of Conduct was an extremely poor process for addressing such matters’.

“The Council needs to be asked why they didn’t then act to fix the Code of Conduct in June so it was fit for purpose and also why, they later authorised what the Mayor says is ‘an extremely poor process’ being used in the middle of an election campaign.”

Deon Swiggs was not shown the Canterbury Youth Workers’ Collective complaint letter until it was leaked to media and was not advised there was a Code of Conduct investigation until the issue came under the media spotlight.

“It appears it was the media attention, not the complaints themselves, that spurred the council into action on this,” says Swiggs.

“There is growing evidence the motive was political. This evidence may form part of the case I am considering lodging in the High Court.”

Deon Swiggs says the fact today’s letter was embargoed is a further slap in the face.

“I have waited four weeks for this decision and to have the council put an ‘embargo’ on the letter is ridiculous. An embargo is a PR construct for media strategising and maintaining control; that seems to be the council’s focus here.”

“I have decided not to adhere to that embargo given how little respect the Council has shown me.”

“The impact this has had on me is immense. It has been traumatising, it has changed my life completely and the process was flawed from the start.”

“The reality is these are unsubstantiated accusations made by people who have not been interviewed or had their evidence verified. I am grateful that despite all of this, I have a group of supporters from across the community who continue to back me – to them, I say thank you. To the public, I say watch this space.”

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