Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt is facing potential bankruptcy for amassing $350,000 in legal bills he says he can't pay back.
Fellow Invercargill counsellor Karen Arnold sued Shadbolt and Fairfax New Zealand in March 2018, alleging the mayor defamed her four times in his Southland Times column in 2014 and 2015.
Despite being cleared of the defamation charges, Shadbolt continues to face a raft of legal bills.
"I owe lawyers bills of $350,000 and there is just no way I can pay it, so what I am staring down for my retirement is bankruptcy," Shadbolt told NZME.
After counsellor Arnold lost she was ordered to pay both Fairfax and Shadbolt $186,000, but she was made bankrupt.
In March this year, Stuff reported Shadbolt was suing his own council to cover the costs of the defamation trial, seeking $448,000.
Shadbolt tried to recover costs under an indemnity clause in the Local Government Act in March 2019, but was turned down.
Still working at 73, Shadbolt has been the Invercargill mayor consecutively since 1998, but has recently faced a few turbulent years in office.
"I just can't believe this has happened to me when I have... transformed this city from a bit of a rural backwater to an exciting place with movies and events," he told NZME.
Shadbolt plans to run again for Invercargill mayor, telling NZME he continues to work at 73-years-old not just for the money, but because he loves his job too.