The South Waikato deputy mayor admits he spoke angrily after accusing his fellow councilman of “following in the footsteps” of his German ancestors.
It comes as the councilor, Peter Schulte, has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission regarding the comment made in August in a series of emails.
Schulte has expressed his frustration at the council’s code of conduct responsibilities in an email chain to all elected members, stating that it was a waste of time and money and comparing the procedure to an episode of Coronation Street.
Deputy Mayor Bill Machen responded, albeit personally.
“I am reluctant to mention your hereditary ancestors, but your nation has a long history of ignoring the norms of what we now call ‘decent society’, it seems to follow in their footsteps,” Machen said.
Schulte “escaped” from East Germany in 1980.
Machen started the email by saying that Schulte was the stupidest and most ignorant person he knew.
“In 50 years of being involved in local affairs and politics, you are the most stupid and ignorant person I have ever met. Your superior attitude and ignorance of due process and natural justice reveal this ignorance.”
Following an email from another councilor persuading Machen to apologize for the reference to Schulte’s home country, the deputy mayor went further.
“In my opinion, based on the above, there is a trait among some people of Germanic origin of a certain arrogance and, indeed, ignorance of what I call polite behavior.”
Machen told RNZ that he did not believe the statements were racist and has since apologized for his words.
“He has made comments that I have found insulting to the process, so I sent him an email that mainly focuses on his behavior, but eventually ends up mentioning his hereditary status to me.
“I am not in this world to demean anyone, but I abhor bad behavior.”
Machen said on reflection that he would not have included the line that highlights Schulte’s German heritage.
“But in saying that, what’s done is done, I’ve apologized.
“Sometimes when we get a little angry at people who are not being sensible, sometimes we can say the wrong thing and you may regret causing harm. And I am sorry.”
Machen said her apology was sincere and came long before the Human Rights Commission participated.
Schulte disagrees, saying that racism has no place in a multicultural society, let alone on the council.
“I took it personally. I couldn’t sleep for a week, I didn’t eat.
“When someone says things like that to you, and you are responsible for the deaths of millions and he is the deputy mayor, that is very, very sad. Especially in our multicultural district that we have here.”
Machen said he did not associate Schulte with the devastation of Nazi Germany.
However, Schulte said he had never encountered an incident like this since leaving Germany 41 years ago.
Schulte has called for Machen to step down as deputy mayor.
The Human Rights Commission declined to comment before its investigation is complete.