A petition described by one councillor as “very malicious” has been rejected by Gore district councillors.

At a meeting yesterday, councillors considered a petition started by Gore resident Sean Burke last month calling for Gore District Council chief executive Steve Parry to resign.

In the petition, he suggested Mr Parry had a history of leading a toxic bullying culture.

The petition has more than 4500 signatures.

Gore Mayor Ben Bell presented the petition on behalf of Mr Burke, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Under council standing orders, Mr Bell was unable to speak to the petition as he presented it to council.

Mayor Ben Bell and chief executive Steve Parry. Photo: ODT

Cr Richard McPhail said legal counsel advised elected members the employment of the chief executive was not a public matter and the employment relationship was private.

“If there are serious allegations of wrongdoing then the council as the employer must act but beyond that should ignore wide-ranging or baseless allegations.”

The council decided unanimously on May 3 it had “full confidence in the chief executive and staff in providing for the ongoing functioning of the council in undertaking its day-to-day activities”.

“That is still true today.”

Despite media attention and public pressure staff continued to turn up to work each day, he said.

Council staff were members of the community too.

“Please respect this.”

Cr Glenys Dickson said the petition was null and void because it did not meet the 150-word criteria for a petition nor was it respectful.

“The uninformed commentary and unjustified attacks on the CEO, staff and councillors is extremely unpleasant and is detrimental to the Gore district’s reputation.”

Cr Keith Hovell moved the petition not be accepted, which was seconded by Cr Stewart MacDonell.

Cr Hovell said the petition was similar to a social media post that people liked.

However, its purpose was unclear.

“It fails to meet the test of what is required by a petition.”

It was also not possible to verify the identity of the people who had signed it, he said.

“What has been submitted to us has little or no credibility.”

Gore District councillors after being sworn in last year are (from left) Robert (Caveman) McKenzie, Keith Hovell, Paul McPhail, Bronwyn Reid, Joe Stringer, Glenys Dickson, Mayor Ben Bell, Neville Phillips, Richard McPhail, deputy mayor Stewart MacDonnell, Bret Highsted, and John Gardyne. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Cr Bronwyn Reid believed the petition was “very malicious in its intent”.

“It is in direct legal and moral conflict with our obligations as a good employer to the chief executive.”

The mayor and councillors had committed to rebuilding public trust and had full confidence in Mr Parry and the senior leadership team.

“We should not compromise that by accepting the petition.”

Mr Bell was the lone voice not supporting the council motion.

The public gallery of the council chamber was full with about 60 people present.

After the meeting Gore resident Kevin Pearson said he signed the petition.

The petition reflected public opinion, he said.

“I am happy it was brought into the public forum and robustly debated.”

However, the community needed to accept the councillors’ decision in rejecting the petition “however unpalatable that may be to the masses”.

Mr Burke could not be contacted for comment.