Sanctions on Vandervis to be discussed

Lee Vandervis.
Lee Vandervis.
Dunedin city councillors will consider sanctions against one of their own, when the findings of an investigation into "aggressive" behaviour by Cr Lee Vandervis are debated next week.

Cr Vandervis was the subject of a Code of Conduct complaint after being accused by a Dunedin City Council staff member of "loud, aggressive and intimidating behaviour" towards her during an exchange over a parking ticket in September.

An independent report into the incident, made public this week, concluded Cr Vandervis’ behaviour breached the council’s code of conduct on three counts.

That was despite Cr Vandervis’ continued denials and claims the complaint was "politically motivated".

The report by independent investigator David Benham detailed the September 13 incident, which began when Cr Vandervis came to the council’s Civic Centre customer services desk about 10.30am.

The staff member involved told Mr Benham the exchange with Cr Vandervis amounted to "an uncalled for verbal attack".

She maintained Cr Vandervis was trying to get a parking ticket waived — a claim Cr Vandervis disputed — as the exchange escalated.

She told the councillor a written form needed to be filled out, but he refused, and became "loud, aggressive and intimidating" while "leaning over the counter trying to intimidate her and waiving his finger at her".

The staff member said the exchange ended when Cr Vandervis told her: "See you in court," the report said.

The woman was left "shaken and upset" and filed a formal complaint on September 18, prompting DCC chief executive Sue Bidrose to appoint Mr Benham to investigate.

Mr Benham is the former chief executive of Greater Wellington Regional Council and now the chairman of the Otago Regional Council's audit and risk subcommittee.

He interviewed the complainant, seven other council staff and one member of the public who all witnessed the incident, and Cr Vandervis.

All witnesses were "consistently of the same view as expressed above by the complainant," he wrote.

"A number of the women said they would have been in tears had it been them," Mr Benham wrote.

Cr Vandervis took "quite a different view", telling Mr Benham he was there to address issues with parking meter signage, not his own parking ticket, and denied being loud, aggressive or intimidating.

He also disputed saying, "See you in court", instead insisting his comment was: "If you want to take this to court, I’m happy to argue."He believed the complaint was "politically motivated" in the run-up to October’s local body elections — a claim denied by the complainant.

Mr Benham also reviewed CCTV footage, which had no sound but clearly showed "gesticulating and finger-pointing" by Cr Vandervis.

The councillor’s decision to post the footage on social media — before the investigation was complete — was "unfortunate and inappropriate".

His description of the staff member as "very unpleasant", also posted on social media, was also contrary to the statements of witnesses who said she remained polite and calm throughout, and added to her distress.

Cr Vandervis had "materially breached" the council’s code of conduct on three counts, including a requirement to "treat all employees with courtesy and respect" and not publicly criticise them, Mr Benham concluded.

He also rejected Cr Vandervis’ suggestion the complaint was politically motivated.

Councillors would consider the report, and decide whether to accept its findings and impose any sanction, at Tuesday’s full council meeting.

Cr Vandervis could attend and make a statement in his defence, but would then be able only to observe proceedings.

Potential sanctions ranged from a letter of censure or a request for an apology, to a vote of no confidence in the councillor, restricted staff access or his temporary suspension from council committees.

Councillors could even decide to invite him to consider resigning as a councillor.

Alternatively, Cr Vandervis could be asked to take actions — such as an apology — which avoided the need for sanctions.



View all

The guy is a bully get rid of him before he costs the council big money in the employment court or if he causes the council to be taken to court make him pay

The facts are that Vandervis can not read simple instructions on a parking meter. Now there is a dilemma, absurd behaviour and not becoming of a Councilor!

Didn't look like much of a 'scene' to me and that's from a non-supporter of Vandervis.

Agree. It's a kinder and gentler world. Wouldn't want somebody at DCC upset over a perceived injustice now would we? A non event. If it was anybody else but Vandervis nothing would have been said.

Let's face it, Vandervis isnt telling the truth.
It is not the first time he's played this game and it won't be the last. Get rid of him, he is only their to create issues.

A bit of finger waggling and people get 'upset', pull ya heads in.
The man is bringing up council issues and you are all running around as if he is the devil incarnate.

The instructions on the meter were simple and he turned it into an issue.
It didn't need to be an issue for $12.

View all

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter