Cull, Vandervis censured over feud

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
The failure of Dunedin's mayor and a city councillor to resolve a minor conduct breach more quickly did not reflect well on either of them as city leaders, the men were told yesterday.

In a telling-off at the end of a hearing called to resolve the matter, independent commissioner and University of Otago law professor Nicola Peart told Mayor Dave Cull and Cr Lee Vandervis they had wasted ratepayer money by letting the matter run for months.

Cr Vandervis complained on November 7 that a comment Mr Cull made on national television during the local body election breached the Dunedin City Council's code of conduct.

He said it breached the provision that 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.

In the interview, Mr Cull had called the records of his challengers with public office experience ''shonky'', and their policies ''nutty and extreme''.

He later confirmed Cr Vandervis was one of those to whom he was referring.

Cr Vandervis said the comments were ''certainly offensive'' to him and to his supporters. He sought an ''appropriate'' apology.

When he realised he could not get that on television, he sought a written apology in the Otago Daily Times, but the mayor had declined to do that, Cr Vandervis told Prof Peart.

Mediation was entered into, but failed in January after Cr Vandervis did not accept an apology made in writing by Mr Cull and reported in the ODT in December.

Prof Peart warned the men at the outset of yesterday's public hearing not to use it as an opportunity for political point-scoring or grandstanding. 

During the 25-minute hearing Cr Vandervis alleged Mr Cull knew his December apology would offend and only rankle further, partially because it referred to the word ''shonky'' as potentially meaning illegal.

But Mr Cull said that he had only made the reference because Cr Vandervis had pointed out in his original complaint that illegal was one of the meanings of shonky.

He felt that was the most offensive interpretation of the word, and wanted to make it clear in his apology that he never intended his use of it to be interpreted as meaning illegal.

He accepted he should not have said it and had breached the code of conduct by doing so, he said.

''When I'm apologising, I apologise for my actions. I understand we are not here to decide if I was correct or not; it's whether I should have used the word and that is what I have apologised for.''

Cr Vandervis told Prof Peart he accepted Mr Cull had not meant shonky in the illegal sense.

However, the mayor had still not retracted the ''nutty and extreme'' comment or dispelled notions arising from other interpretations of the word shonky, such as dishonest or unreliable.

After a 10-minute adjournment Prof Peart ruled the use of ''shonky'' had breached the code of conduct.

However, the use of the words nutty and extreme had not, as they were focused on the issues rather than the person.

She ordered Mr Cull to make an apology, in writing and approved by her, to Cr Vandervis by Monday.

The apology should be posted on the council's website.

She ended the meeting by observing it was a matter of ''sincere regret'' the complaint had not been resolved more promptly.

All in all, the comment, made as it was in the context of an election campaign, was a minor breach, she said.

''A quick apology from you, Mayor Cull, would have nipped this in the bud. But both of you have let this run on for months at the expense of ratepayers.

''The failure of both of you not to resolve it quickly does not reflect well on you as leaders of the Dunedin community.''

Cr Vandervis afterwards said he was sorry it had taken so long, but did not know what he could have done to make it shorter.

Mr Cull said he would prepare the apology for Monday.




You are all dreaming if you honestly believe this was only the mayor's doing. Yes, the mayor has had to make an apology, but it was deemed a minor breach (which - let's be honest - is by legal definition only a breach) and one that most certainly needed to go to this level of discussion in the first place. This is about Vandervis trying to dethrone the mayor. If you are upset about what this has cost the ratepayer, its both parties at fault, not just the mayor. [Abridged]


Good idea Adam. Perhaps we should hold the bout at the stadium. At least it'll fill up once.


It has struck me how one of the gentlemen involved, in all of the times have heard him on radio or seen him on tv, has invariably been negative and moaning rather than being positive. 

Resorting to words like ''shonky'', ''nutty and extreme'' is not likely to result in fruitful outcomes even if born out of sheer frustration. I wonder if asking the individual if he has barbed-wire underpants on would lighten things up?

Come out swinging

I believe these two individuals should be made to climb into a boxing ring and sort matters out, for once and for all.

With a little luck, they will then have greater respect for each other,and be able to concentrate on what the ratepayers have elected them to do.

Embarrassment to Dunedin

Are these two "leaders" trying to earn Dunedin the title of "Hillbilly Capital of the World"? He said... no he said... but he said. Boring, childish and ego-crazed. No, sorry, children would have more dignity and grace.

Deceptive headline

This headline is deceptive as it implies both men were censured.  This is not so.  The mediator directed that the Mayor was required to write the apology required by Cr. Vandervis, and to get it approved by her before releasing it, which implies a certain lack of confidence, even now, in the Mayor's willingness to perform.

The mediator then went on to say: ''A quick apology from you, Mayor Cull, would have nipped this in the bud. But both of you have let this run on for months at the expense of ratepayers."

Which basically states that the extended stoush is entirely due to the Mayor's reluctance to issue the apology that the mediator thinks was justified at the time.  Mr. Vandervis is just included as an aside in a comment at the end of a decision that enforces exactly the remediation that he sought, and it cannot be in any way considered to be a formal censure..

The Mayor has lost this case outright - Mr. Vandervis has not been censured - The headline and opening passages of this story should reflect that fact. 




Better behaviour in kindergarten

I look at these two wasting time and money and I sigh.. again.  Who votes these people in time and time again?  The behaviour doesn't change.  Disruption rather than governance seems to be the name of the game. Can we get people onto council who see the job as meeting the needs of the population and not own agendas?  Please?  And can we have people thinking now about standing for the next election?  Put in some honest work now and give the lacklustre encumbents an actual run for their positions in local government.  Coming out of nowhere is a sure-fire way of being overlooked.

Some sensible words of admonishment

Well done, Professor Nicola Peart.  Hopefully her words will ring in the ears of those that need to listen.

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