Complaint against Wellington city councillor Simon Woolf revealed after Ombudsman investigation

Wellington City Council (WCC) has released a complaint made against councillor Simon Woolf, alleging he caused staff considerable distress and failed to consider his duty of care to them.

The Herald complained to the Ombudsman more than 16 months ago after the council refused to release all complaints made by both elected members and staff about Woolf’s conduct over the past triennium.

The issue at stake was what level of privacy elected members should reasonably expect, given they are in public office.

The Ombudsman's investigation

The Herald asked for the information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA).

But the council refused to release it to ensure the privacy of an individual, in this case Woolf, was protected.

“We do not consider his right to privacy is outweighed by the public interest test in the Act”, officials said.

The Herald argued elected members accepted an attenuated right to privacy when they took public office.

Dr Dean Knight, an associate professor at Victoria University’s faculty of law, agreed at the time the council’s reasoning was bizarre and surprising.

The hint was in the title, councillors held positions of public office, they knew they had a reduced claim to privacy when taking on that role, he said.

Knight noted the privacy issue was more about complainants or staff, which he said could be dealt with through redactions and selective release.

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