Vandervis rejects Cull's apology over language used in interview

Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis has rejected an apology from Mayor Dave Cull for referring during the local body elections to the councillor's experience and policies as ''shonky, nutty and extreme''.

Mr Cull yesterday issued an apology to Cr Vandervis in response to a formal code of conduct complaint laid by Cr Vandervis about a television interview in which Mr Cull said the two other Dunedin mayoral challengers who had public office experience had ''a pretty shonky record'' in public office and their policies were ''extreme, nutty''.

The two were Cr Vandervis and Cr Hilary Calvert, who did not lay a complaint.

Cr Vandervis said the comments breached the provision of the Dunedin City Council's code that covered relationships with other members, which said elected members should conduct their dealings with each other in a way that focused on issues rather than personalities, and avoided aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct.

The use of the word ''shonky'' irked in particular, as the New Oxford Dictionary of English defined it as meaning ''dishonest, unreliable, or illegal, especially in a devious way'', he said.

The complaint was being handled by deputy mayor Chris Staynes - who must deal with complaints where the mayor is the subject - and was in mediation.

Cr Vandervis posted a copy of his complaint online on December 11.

Mr Cull yesterday said the mediation had been ''inconclusive'' and he had decided to issue the statement of apology to clarify the situation.

In the statement, he said his interview comment was intended to relate to the policies of some mayoral candidates.

''I pride myself on addressing issues rather than personalities and the comment was not intended as an attack on the candidates. My intention was to comment on the policies of the candidates.''

He said he never intended his reference to ''shonky'' to be interpreted as acting illegally.

''With the benefit of hindsight I realise that my comments were not limited to the candidates' policies. I apologise if the words I used were taken as an attack on either their characters or themselves personally.''

The mayor initially yesterday sent Cr Vandervis an early draft of the apology, which the councillor roundly rejected.

Once the final version of the apology was received last night, Cr Vandervis said his response stood.

The apology was not anything like that sought in mediation and by adding the ''suggestion of 'acting illegally' '' further compounded the ''already defamatory'' words used by the mayor on television, he said..

''We were midway through a mediation process to agree on an appropriate apology, which makes the mayor's unagreed public comment now wholly inappropriate.

''I hereby thank the mediator for his genuine efforts, and terminate the mediation, looking forward to my formal code of conduct complaint, which [Cr Staynes] has agreed has a case to answer, being dealt with properly by the Code of Conduct Committee.''

Cr Staynes could not be contacted last night.

The apology is the latest chapter in the volatile relationship between the two elected members.

Mr Vandervis in 2011 made a complaint against Mr Cull about a range of issues, including the handling of points of order, which was eventually dropped without resolution.

Last year, the mayor publicly chastised Cr Vandervis for questioning the integrity of a fellow elected representative when he accused a councillor of not attending meetings, when that person was in hospital recovering from surgery.

Cr Vandervis later apologised.

Mr Cull gave Cr Vandervis no positions of responsibility in the new council committee structure because, he said, he had no confidence the councillor could contribute constructively, or maintain any of the relationships needed to do the work effectively.

This is Mr Cull's third public apology in the past 18 months.

He apologised after characterising the Dalai Lama as ''the leader of a minority sect'' and apologised to two Otago Rugby Football Union board members to avoid defamation after criticising the board on radio.

The council contributed $29,000 towards the pair's legal costs.

debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

What chance does Vandervis have?

As Cull and Staynes are of the same cabal, I don't see how Vandervis will get an impartial hearing. Another poorly designed rule of this Council.

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