Relationship between Gore Mayor Ben Bell and council CEO so bad they need an intermediary

The relationship between Gore District Council's Mayor Ben Bell and chief executive Stephen Parry has broken down to the point another councillor will act as an intermediary between them.

Bell became New Zealand's youngest ever mayor at 23 when he ousted six-term incumbent Tracy Hicks by just eight votes at October's local elections.

The campaign was marred by dirty politics with false rumours regarding Bell's sexuality being spread by allies of the former mayor.

It was understood that since the election Bell and Parry had shared a frosty relationship.

At a behind-closed-doors extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday, the council noted the pair had been engaged in mediation since December.

They also noted the breakdown in their relationship and voted to appoint another elected member to act as a go-between.

Bell was also removed from the committee which oversees the performance of the chief executive.

In a joint statement from deputy mayor Keith Hovell and the council's general manager community lifestyle services Rex Capil, the council outlined what was discussed at the meeting.

"The meeting was held in committee in accordance with the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act Section 7(2)(a) - to protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons.

"The meeting was publicly notified on the Council's website Public Notice page on Thursday 23 March. It was also notified retrospectively on the Council's Noticeboard, in The Ensign, on Wednesday 29 March. These notifications are in keeping with the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

"The extraordinary meeting was called by Gore District Mayor Ben Bell. All councillors were present at the meeting, which deputy mayor Cr Keith Hovell chaired.

"Both the mayor and chief executive Stephen Parry were given the opportunity to address the meeting and answer questions from councillors separately.

"At no point during the meeting was there a vote of no confidence in the mayor."

No councillors contacted by RNZ were willing to discuss what took place during the meeting.

Hovell did clarify that Bell was removed from the council's Chief Executive Appraisal Committee and Councillor Bronwyn Reid appointed in his place.

RNZ understands there was discussion at the meeting of a vote of no confidence in Bell.

Capil emailed RNZ to say "No motion was tabled or discussed".

When asked if such a motion had been raised or discussed, Hovell said "no comment to that one".

RNZ has been unable to contact Bell or Parry.

In addition to the claims of dirty politics arising during the election campaign, the council has been beset by controversies this term.

Bell's initial choice as deputy mayor - Stewart MacDonell - was removed after a majority of councillors signed a letter calling for him to go.

That led to the appointment of Hovell with the unanimous support of council.

Bell also faced controversy over his expenses, holding a retreat for elected members in Cromwell which was boycotted by some councillors, and his desire to hire an executive assistant.