Vandervis censured over staff treatment

Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis is vowing to continue using his ‘‘loud’’ voice despite being censured by his colleagues for aggressive behaviour towards a Dunedin City Council staff member.

Lee Vandervis
Lee Vandervis at yesterday's meeting. Photo: Craig Baxter
Councillors at yesterday’s full council meeting voted unanimously 13-0 to issue Cr Vandervis with a written censure for his conduct.

The vote came after they accepted the findings of a report by independent investigator David Benham, which found Cr Vandervis had been ‘‘loud, aggressive and intimidating’’ towards a staff member on September 13.

The incident inside the council’s Civic Centre building led to a code of conduct complaint, which in turn prompted the investigation.

Cr Vandervis told yesterday’s meeting he would not change his approach.

‘‘As a councillor, I call out local government dysfunction with my loud clear voice and I am tall with facial hair which some people find intimidating.

‘‘I do not intend to change any of this,’’ he said.

He also continued to dispute key parts of the investigation’s findings, while insisting he had not been afforded ‘‘natural justice’’ and claiming the complaint against him was politically motivated.

His colleagues took a different view as they lined up to criticise his behaviour yesterday.

The resolution to censure came from Cr Mike Lord, who said he had also spoken to a trusted staff member who confirmed details of the exchange.

Cr Vandervis had been ‘‘loud’’ and the situation ‘‘embarrassing’’, and Cr Lord accepted the staff member’s version of events as well as Mr Benham’s report.

Deputy mayor Christine Garey said the issue was the councillor’s treatment of staff, and the council had to enforce the code of conduct to be a responsible employer.

Cr Carmen Houlahan said councillors had to be held

to an even higher standard of behaviour than the general public, while Cr Chris Staynes said it was clear the complaint was not politically motivated.

Cr Jules Radich spoke in support of Cr Vandervis, saying if the exchange was over a $12 parking ticket — as the complaint alleged and Cr Vandervis denied — then it was ‘‘a very small matter’’.

He also questioned whether CCTV footage of the incident — which did not include sound — showed ‘‘much shouting or loud-looking’’ behaviour.

‘‘We have quite a lot of complaint going on here about not very much,’’ he said.

Cr Marie Laufiso took a different view, saying if she had her way Cr Vandervis would be asked to resign.

Cr Vandervis was permitted to make an opening statement before councillors considered the report’s findings, but then had to sit back from the rest of the proceedings.

Mr Benham’s report said the complaint was that Cr Vandervis had become ‘‘increasingly angry’’ while trying to get a parking ticket waived.

Cr Vandervis disputed that, telling councillors he had been attempting to report a ‘‘malfunctioning mislabelled parking meter’’, not dispute a $12 ticket, which was ‘‘ridiculous’’.

He denied the claims in the complaint and said he had not been afforded ‘‘natural justice’’ - despite being interviewed at length during the investigation - as he said he did not get to see the complaint or witness statements.

His privacy had also been breached at a ‘‘critical time’’ during the election campaign, ‘‘so it should be no surprise that I consider this whole issue to be politically motivated’’.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose denied suggestions only a small circle of council staff knew of the complaint, telling the meeting the incident had been ‘‘a hot issue’’ of debate throughout the council building.

Council legal representative Michael Garbett said he was ‘‘satisfied that the process has been fair and consistent with the code of conduct’’.

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I hope Vandervis keeps calling the council out for poor service and other nonsensical, wasteful things they do. He is the only voice of reason on the council. I applaud him for standing up and he should wear the censure as a badge of courage for standing up for the rest of us. If they can censure him for vocalizing his thoughts and frustration about poor service and nothing happens imagine how the rest of us feel dealing with the bureaucratic incompetence that DCC has mastered. Cr Vandervis, please continue to hold these people accountable! There are more of us who support you than the fake media would have you think! Kudos!

Totally agree, more support out there than one would think. He's certainly not a " yes minister". Good on ya Lee.

Vandervis can not read a simple parking meter and then turned a parking ticket into an major issue.
That is the start and finish of the story and quite frankly is absurd behaviour.

FrankieC and Buzz right on the money if they treat one of there own like this how will others be treated and rate payers, it appears the CEO, Mayor and Councillors can't even follow their own complaints process and Councillors are lipping off in the Mayor and CEO support. Keep going Cr Lee Vandervis, take it higher as high as you can . Can you complain as high as the Governor General?

'One of their own' lol no the bloke that sits there and knocks everything the council dose is 'one of their own'...
The problem with Vandervis taking it higher we are going to look at past history of how he treats and has treated other council staff. We all know he definitely doesn't want that coming out.

Kezza, Cull had to pay out $50k to Vandervis a couple of years ago, do you remember why? A couple of months ago he had questioned pay increases to commitee chairs, simply because he felt that the level of work didn't warrant such increases. He has constantly questioned the problems with Aurora, but is shut down by 'internal forces'. The list goes on. He seems to understand that the city needs to tighten it's purse strings and the council needs to be more transparent. We need someone like Vandervis to ask the hard questions. His methods may not be appreciated but his tenacity is. So yes, he may be a 'thorn in their side', so be it.

So what dose Vandervis actually get done with his ability to piss everyone off?
The answer is, nothing at all!
Jump up and down, screaming and shouting waiting for someone else to fix the problem isnt working for anyone. How long till the stress gets to him and he suffers the consequences of it??? Not that long I'm guessing.. when that happens it will all be someone else's fault as per usual...

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