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Lee Vandervis is the only councillor on the council's confidential health and safety register. Historical allegations against him include "threatening staff employment security if elected mayor" and "public abuse and denigration of staff, belittling, questioning competence".
Cr Vandervis, this evening, pushed back against the allegations.
"That is absolutely untrue — that is an absolute bare-faced lie. I have never ever said as claimed that I would fire someone when I became mayor. That is absurd — mayors can’t fire people anyway," he said.
"That is just absolute scandalous invention.
"Pushing back? I reject all and any of these claims as being manufactured rubbish."
He said the "supposed complaints" were in fact an "utter secret fabrication brought out — gathered over many years in secret and brought out — prior to the election in an attempt, a successful attempt as it turns out to smother my name and make it look like I have some kind of problem, which I do not."
He had though taken staff to task over legitimate issues.
"I don’t expect everybody at the DCC [council] to think that I am the nicest guy on the block, because I have been exposing what all of them have been up to. But I certainly don’t expect the chief executive to keep a secret file, since . . . 2012 . . . of anything, any of the 1000 staff said, that was negative with my name in it, "claiming that it’s an event and then misrepresenting it as a ‘complaint’."
The alleged incidents were part of a summary file kept on the councillor and released this week, after the Ombudsman ruled in favour of the Otago Daily Times and in response to a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) request made late last year.
The complaints date back to 2012.
The register of 27 recorded incidents was the only one of its kind for an elected member, council chief executive Sue Bidrose said.
She said the council had initially denied the ODT request for information to protect Cr Vandervis’ privacy.
However, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier over-ruled that decision in a June 30 opinion.
"The public interest considerations favouring release of the information outweigh the privacy interests to the extent that a summary of certain information should be released," he said.
The previous chief executive advised Dr Bidrose to set up the file through the council’s human resources department when she held the strategy and development general manager’s role "because it was beginning to be a pattern of behaviour — and we needed to keep a record of how we’d responded to show that we were proactively looking after our staff’s well-being".
"We don’t have a complaints file — this file was set up specifically so that we could prove — should we get prosecuted — we could prove we had taken actions to protect the staff," Dr Bidrose said.
"This file was kept so that we had a record of the actions we were taking in order to reduce the impact of this behaviour on staff — or to try to stop the behaviour".
Cr Vandervis had been informed "this kind of behaviour presents an organizational risk — a risk that a staff member will be emotionally impacted" which could have resulted in a staff member taking the issue up with WorkSafe.
In 2015, Cr Vandervis was temporarily stripped of his voting rights after a formal code of conduct complaint.
In the last triennium, 2016-19, there were 12 complaints against the councillor.
There was at least one complaint since those included in the summary, which only covered the period identified in the official information act request.
"There is a power differential which is repeatedly pointed out [to Cr Vandervis]," Dr Bidrose said. "A councillor — if they’re going to yell and shout and accuse somebody of being inept, staff are not in a position where they can do that back.
"There’s a power differential.
"That is what puts an onus on councillors to abide by the code of conduct that says you are to treat staff with respect."
She said the council did all it could "within the bounds of the law" to try to keep staff safe, but she said there were times when the work environment was "unpleasant".
The register includes allegations that in 2013 Cr Vandervis was bullying in a council meeting.
In 2015, he was said to have shouted and berated a seated staff member "while standing over him".
In 2016, there was a "generic complaint about intimidating staff to point of tears".
He alleged "many staff" were involved in corruption in fraud in 2017, which included a "cover-up by senior staff".
There was alleged "public abuse and denigration of staff" in 2018.
In 2019, he allegedly "overtalks, swears at and shouts down three women in a meeting".
Cr Vandervis said he "will be discussing all the allegations with my lawyer on Monday".