Vandervis to resign rather than apologise

Embattled Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis is refusing to apologise for intimidating conduct and will instead walk away from two of his roles.

Cr Vandervis announced last night he was resigning from serving on the Otago Museum Trust Board and Dunedin’s district licensing committee.

Cr Vandervis had faced being stripped of those roles if he did not deliver the apology required of him by the Dunedin City Council after councillors decided this week he had breached the code of conduct by shouting at, standing over and pointing his finger in the face of deputy mayor Christine Garey in July.

"I have considered the resolution of the council and decided that I cannot in good conscience deliver the apology insisted on, as it would be dishonest and insincere," Cr Vandervis said in a statement.

"I have enjoyed the contribution that I have made to each organisation and I hope that the councillor who replaces me will be able to contribute as I have in the interests of those organisations and Dunedin city ratepayers."

Cr Rachel Elder said it was a shame Cr Vandervis had decided to curtail his contribution.

Diversity of opinion was important and Cr Vandervis was unafraid to offer perspectives other people might not otherwise consider.

However, Cr Elder said his conduct warranted a far stronger apology than he had delivered.

She also noted Cr Vandervis had withdrawn as Dunedin Heritage Fund chairman.

Cr Vandervis tendered an apology for "loudness" after the July 28 council meeting, but not for intimidation or aggression.

Cr Lee Vandervis defends himself against an accusation intimidating behaviour at a council...
Cr Lee Vandervis defends himself against an accusation of intimidating behaviour at a council meeting. Photo: Peter McIntosh

Independent investigator Steph Dyhrberg had found he behaved "aggressively, discourteously and in a manner anyone would have found intimidating".

Cr Sophie Barker, who will be the new heritage fund chairwoman, said she was sad about Cr Vandervis’ decisions yesterday.

She said Cr Vandervis was often "on the money" with points he would raise, but he could be more effective if he "measured his delivery".

Ahead of a museum board meeting yesterday, Cr Vandervis was asked how he felt about the possibility of losing his position, and whether he felt he had already apologised adequately enough.

"I apologised for loudness - that was all there was to it," Cr Vandervis replied.

"The rest is hyperbole," he said, apparently objecting to how some of his behaviour had been described.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said it was disappointing Cr Vandervis had not taken the opportunity to reflect on how his behaviour affected people.

"Lee would rather resign from a role he has wanted for years, on the Otago Museum board, than give a sincere apology," Mr Hawkins said.

"His aggressive and intimidating outbursts are unacceptable, and I’m proud of my council colleagues for calling him out on it, despite the inevitable backlash it brings from his supporters."

Cr Steve Walker said Cr Vandervis liked to lay blame at the feet of other people.

He set himself up as a "victim" - a tactic that seemed to resonate with supporters.

"It’s clever. It’s almost Trumpian."

Cr Jim O’Malley said he was not surprised by Cr Vandervis’ move.

"It’s consistent with grandstanding and having no respect for process."

Cr Andrew Whiley said Cr Vandervis was effective in the roles from which he had just stood aside.

"The part that I’m extremely disappointed in, is at no point has he taken ownership of his behaviour." .

- Additional reporting by John Gibb

grant.miller@odt.co.nz


 

Comments

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Rather than alienate people who voted for Vandervis last election, the evidence presented in this Code of Conduct process might well deter them from voting the same way next election. Especially if some of the promising new Councillors like Barker and Radich give greater choice for the mayoralty. I very much doubt that Vandervis’ online support is representative. In fact, the nastier it gets, the more it is likely to put people off. Vandervis could stop it if he wanted to but I think he likes and even might believe his ‘saviour of Dunedin ‘ myth. Beware a person who believes they can do no wrong, especially in politics.

Solidified my vote. He can do more good than anybody else on the council!

Evidence does not support your claim. To date, Mr Vandervis has completely failed to move the council on the matters he advocates upon, and his seemingly increasing volatility, and inability to behave in a professional manner will only marginalise him further. That Mr Vandervis shouts at DCC staff and councillors may feel like he is channelling the frustration of his constituency, but it achieves nothing except to paint him in a poor light. It isn't OK to shout at your staff or your colleagues, and in a regular job he would have used up his oral and written warnings a long time ago.

Why would you assume he is alienating voters? He was involved in a heated discussion and the episode was highly publicized. Happens all the time at the workplace. Big deal!
I'm sure Vandervis' comments to Garey were more reserved than what most voters would have to say!
Like many people in Dunedin, I applaud Vandervis for his refusal to apologise. He says what he means and means what he said. I could care less if he hurt somebody's feelings. The whole thing is total BS.

*Some* people I think you mean. I don't know anyone in any area of my life who applauds Lee.

It's a real concern to see so many comments from so many people saying this behaviour is normal in their workplace. There have been laws - and social standards! - around bullying and this kind of aggressive behaviour for a long time now. Hurting people's feelings (which is not what this about, by the way) is actually not OK either - kids are taught that almost as soon as they're old enough to interact with other kids.

However frustrated he is by not getting his way, or even by not being able to get his message across to his colleagues, several of whom said they support his thinking in some cases - it doesn't excuse behaving this badly. It also says volumes that he adamantly won't acknowledge that his 14 colleagues all say the same thing about his behaviour - surely it's worth having a sit down and a look at yourself in that scenario.

The first council meeting I ever attended, Lee maintained an argument for 45 minutes about the order candidate names should appear on the voting papers. 45 minutes. That's too long on a topic of such little significance to city outcomes.

The thing about being sure about 'what most voters would say' is that you're the only one that's sure.

Well said. I agree completely.

Believe in Your Heart hill

At least taxpayers do not have to pay for his anger management course as suggested by one councilor. Doubt if he'd turn up anyway.

Ratepayers will have to pay when he takes the DCC to court in November.

Ratepayers would, not tax payers

Dunedin's deep swamp rises and shows its authoritarian teeth. Thanks for putting on a "show trial" chumps. Fascinating. Shutting down a large group of voters is not commensurate with the spirit of our inherited democracy. It can't be fun dealing with long term corruption and iniquity, from which, IMO, all this angst arises. Yet still, this should give Lee more time to focus on the real problem facing Dunedin. The quaint idea that expenditure should match income.

You may be unfamiliar with Public Service systems.
They are ordered, subject to behavioural protocols and Health & Safety codes, unlike the Private Sector. Of course, some see this as PC, and have no problem with intimidation of female colleagues.

Do what is right, not what is easy nor what is popular.

Hull: intimidation is Right where there is no moral compass.

I agree, however with rising house values the DCC have had a windfall surge in income. This is where the wealth tax disguised as rates is fundamentally wrong. There should be no willy nilly tax and then we will decide later what we need to spend it on type of management. Is this why we ended up with stupid painted dots down the main street? It seems that the DCC has only one problem solving strategy: when in trouble pilfer the pockets of the ratepayer. Well with this property value windfall I would expect rates to freeze for at least the next 10 years. Cr Vandervis seems to be the only one who has ratepayers' backs. Roll on 2022.

"with rising house values the DCC have had a windfall surge in income."

Wrong. This is a myth that seems to be perpetually promoted by the uneducated in such matters.

Changes to house values does not provide additional revenue to DCC. It changes how the revenue they require is distributed
amongst property owners.

Additional revenue is received only if council-funded expenditure goes up, not because house values change.

I think the DCC needs to be aware that they have made a lot of enemies over many years. The old adage, "my enemies enemies are my friends" will always result in votes for Cr Vandervis.

Right or wrong, discord for the sake of it.

There is no escape—we pay for the violence of our ancestors hill.

Dunners, you are fundamentally incorrect.
Example, Rates notice 01 May 2015 CV $165k Rate Charge 0.00299100 = $493.20
Rates notice 23 Oct 2015 CV $165k Rate Charge 0.00316700 =$522.56
Rates notice 17 Apr 2020 CV $195k Rate Charge 0.00333500 =$650.33
Rates notice 07 Aug 2020 CV $295k Rate Charge 0.00285900=$843.41
The increases in property value has increased the 'take' for DCC since 2015 in the above examples.
Rising house and property values DO indeed increase the rates take, as you can clearly see, therefore increases the income of the DCC. It has nothing to do with quote: "how the revenue they require is distributed amongst property owners".
The increased CV's also increases the ORC rates take.
Quote: "Additional revenue is received only if council-funded expenditure goes up, not because house values change."
Dunners, the very moment CV's increase, so does the income to DCC. It is a MYTH that the increase of value has no effect on rates. The other factor that adjusts rates, as you will see from the Rates Notice examples, is the Rates Charge decimal amount. Pretty simple really. Increased CV = WINDFALL

Thanks Buzz for setting the record straight about the rates increases due to rising property values, a.k.a wealth tax. These socialists all have one thing in common, a very poor understanding of the fundamentals of accounting. But then who would when it is always other peoples money.

Hull. Now you're a determinist? We don't pay for the actions of ancestors. We pay for our own. There is no 'hill'.

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