Outspoken city councillor Lee Vandervis has been given an
early Christmas present - permission to talk to Dunedin City
Council staff again.
Cr Vandervis had been banned from talking directly to most
staff for more than a year, after giving orders to some - and
describing others as ''dogs'' - in a series of angry emails
in September last year.
That prompted then-acting chief executive Athol Stephens to
instruct council staff receiving phone calls or emails from
Cr Vandervis to forward them to their general managers.
The council's customer services agency staff were also told
to divert Cr Vandervis' phone calls to staff to general
The ban lasted 15 months, until formally lifted by council
chief executive Paul Orders yesterday.
Cr Vandervis said when contacted the move was ''hardly a
present'' and ''nothing to be congratulated on''.
''It was an absolutely unwarranted, illegal and unworkable
Mr Orders, in an email to senior managers yesterday, said the
decision was a ''matter of principle''.
It followed the decision by councillors earlier this month to
abandon a code of conduct complaint by Cr Vandervis against
Mayor Dave Cull without resolution, meaning all complaints
were now resolved.
A copy of Mr Orders' email was released to the Otago Daily
Times following an official information request.
In it, he wrote the councillors' decision to resolve
outstanding complaints had ''prompted me to consider the
restrictions'' placed on Cr Vandervis.
''As a matter of principle, I have reservations about
applying such an open-ended sanction on an elected member.
''I have reflected on this carefully and have taken the
decision to rescind the restriction forthwith and I expect
that Councillor Vandervis is given access to appropriate
professional staff advice on the same basis as that of any
The most inflammatory of Cr Vandervis' emails, on August 16
last year, was sent to Mr Stephens and four senior managers.
In it, Cr Vandervis expressed anger at council parking
wardens ticketing vehicles in the central city after heavy
''Staff of the DCC,'' he wrote.
''Get our parking wardens off the streets IMMEDIATELY! NOW!!
''Failure to respond by return with the decision to call the
DCC dogs off our hapless motorists WILL RESULT IN AN ENTIRELY
PREVENTABLE PUBLIC ESCALATION.''
Cr Vandervis' message - using capital letters, which
typically indicated shouting - was followed hours later by an
apology to any staff who felt ''personally abused''.
However, days later, Cr Vandervis emailed another staff
member questioning the ''dysfunctional'' management of
council parking facilities and labelling the council ''a
self-serving bureaucratic culture with little specific
The emails prompted complaints from Crs Kate Wilson and Syd
Brown. Cr Vandervis criticised the ban that followed as
''utterly draconian'' and expressed hope Mr Orders would