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Nobby Clark ‘Clearly Unfit For Public Office’: Expert

A local government expert is calling for the resignation of Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark, saying the city deserves better.

Dr Andy Asquith of the University of Technology Sydney said the mayor had "brought the office into disrepute" and should step aside.

The comments follow multiple calls for Clark’s resignation last week after a code of conduct complaint from United Fire Brigades’ Association went public.

Allegations from the private event include that Clark made derogatory remarks towards a female MC, disparaged young people in positions of authority, and labelled volunteer firefighters as second-class citizens.

“He’s clearly unfit for public office, and the people of Invercargill deserve better,” Dr Asquith said.

There was a certain level of intelligent behaviour, decorum and language expected for the role, he said

“This guy is supposed to be the number one citizen of Invercargill, people look up to the mayor.”

Prior to joining the University of Technology Sydney, Dr Asquith worked at Massey University in New Zealand and specialised in the local government sector.

He believed there needed to be a national code of conduct for councillors and mayors, referencing a recent incident in Hamilton where a councillor sent an expletive-laden submission to a neighbouring council as extra impetus.

Dr Asquith was disappointed the last Government’s future for local government reform had gone by the wayside, saying it dealt with issues such as code of conduct, governance training and education.

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Clark has been forthright in his opposition to standing down, also refusing to step aside from public engagements at the request of other councillors.

On Monday, he announced he would take an extra month off, acknowledging he had come back from open heart surgery too soon.

The month would be used to “refresh and look more positively to my role as mayor", Clark said.

Invercargill City Council confirmed the mayor would continue to be paid from his annual salary of $149,291 during the month off.

In response to questions from Local Democracy Reporting regarding Mayor Clark, Minister for Local Government Simeon Brown said it was not unusual for challenges to arise at the governance level.

Councils were responsible for addressing those, he said.

“Ultimately, mayors and councillors are democratically accountable to their communities.

“Councils are responsible for resolving issues. The threshold for Ministerial intervention, including appointing an observer, is high.”

A second code of conduct complaint against Clark relating to his appearance on television show New Zealand Today is ongoing.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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