The Tauranga City Council made a confidential settlement to the widow of former chief executive Ken Paterson.
Mayor Stuart Crosby said he was unable to talk about the settlement made to Melanie Paterson or how much was paid, except to say it was not a significant amount.
He was asked to confirm information the Bay of Plenty Times had obtained that she had received a payout.
Mr Crosby would not comment on information that the settlement was linked to Mr Paterson coming under untenable pressure, council sources saying the chief executive had been maligned and treated unfairly.
"The man is not here to defend himself. It is totally inappropriate to comment," he said.
Mr Paterson died suddenly last June, barely 11 months into the job. Mrs Paterson, who recently shifted from Tauranga, could not be contacted. Mr Paterson's brother-in-law, Malcolm Johns, said he was aware that Ken had experienced some "challenging times" as chief executive.
Mr Paterson's death coincided with the council launching an independent investigation into what Councillor Murray Guy described as "accusations of bullying and intimidation" within the organisation.
Mr Crosby said he was made aware of two or three allegations of significant bullying last year, one of which was "quite significant".
He declined to go into details except to say that it had not involved Mr Paterson being bullied. The investigation found that the allegation had "no substance" and the file was closed.
Cr Guy said there had not been the evidence to support the bullying concerns.
He revealed that the pressure on Mr Paterson had increased after a performance review six months after he joined the council.
It involved feedback from councillors, the council's senior management team and council partners in the community. "It was clearly evident from his demeanour that he was a man under significant pressure."
Cr Guy said the results of the performance review both surprised and hurt Mr Paterson.
He said some elected members felt that Mr Paterson's contribution had not met their expectations.
Cr Guy said the review's integrity was influenced by the fact that no sooner had Mr Paterson taken up his job than he was absorbed into significant issues including the Mount Hot Pools redevelopment and the Rena disaster.
Asked whether Mr Paterson had been mistreated and maligned, Cr Guy said: "As much as I would like to comment on certain aspects of his passing, and certain matters, there is no way I would like it to fall back on Ken's family and their recovery processes. It has the potential to do that."
He said he could not go down the "personal line" because it would put ratepayers at risk of further litigation and grievance processes.
Mr Paterson died in his sleep on June 17 at the age of 61, leaving behind infant twins and a 3-year-old boy.
A month earlier, he was admitted to Tauranga Hospital with chest pains, and had returned to work.
He underwent heart surgery before taking up his earlier job as Northland Regional Council chief executive.