Vandervis complaint second attempt at censure

DCC councillor Marie Laufiso. PHOTO: Gregor Richardson/ODT files
DCC councillor Marie Laufiso. PHOTO: Gregor Richardson/ODT files
The Dunedin city councillor who lodged a complaint against a colleague she accused of persistently racist conduct failed in a previous attempt to "censure" him.

Cr Marie Laufiso submitted a notice of motion to the Dunedin City Council in August asking that the council request an unqualified written apology from Cr Lee Vandervis to members of its Te Pae Māori committee in relation to commentary from him the previous month.

She also wanted the council to secure from him "a written commitment to participate in Te Pae Māori as per the agreed protocols".

However, the notice, which was to be seconded by Cr Mandy Mayhem, could not be put before the council because it dealt with matters that had to be handled under its code of conduct.

Three months later — after further disharmony — Cr Laufiso formally alleged Cr Vandervis had breached the code.

The council confirmed this week an investigator had been appointed to look into the matter.

Cr Vandervis disclosed on his own website what his commentary last year had been.

He asserted he was "not prepared to submit to the sexist, racist and tribal ritual requirements" for him to enter a Karitane marae, objected to lack of English translations to various Māori words or phrases and said he would not be dictated to in an official council meeting by "an elite".

A hui agenda was described as "not understandable by non-Māori speakers" and the meeting was being held in a "tribal environment that excludes sovereign non-compliant elected representatives", he said.

In her complaint, which was posted on Cr Vandervis’ website, Cr Laufiso said her August notice was an attempt to censure her colleague, but it was rejected then as being out of order.

"Such an action could only be taken at the conclusion of a formal code of conduct process, which I am now invoking.

"We have very limited tools to address the behaviour of elected members, and regrettably this is one of them."

She highlighted code clauses that required council members to avoid "aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct, including the use of disrespectful or malicious language", and to "act in a way that upholds the reputation of the local authority".

Cr Laufiso said Cr Vandervis had shown contempt for Te Pae Māori, as well as long-standing antipathy towards tangata whenua, and had subjected council staff to "persistently racist conduct and imperiously bigoted emails".

Minutes of the July Te Pae Māori meeting show apologies for meeting non-attendance were accepted for several members, but not for Cr Vandervis.

Te Pae Māori member Edward Ellison said yesterday the councillor’s conduct was a matter for the council.

He was aware of the reasoning offered by Cr Vandervis for meeting non-attendance, but could not recall mana whenua or mātāwaka representatives replying.

The marae was a legitimate place to discuss divergent views face to face to promote solutions, he said.