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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.
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’’.