Watch: Vandervis must apologise or be stripped from roles

Councillor Lee Vandervis has to make an "unreserved" public apology for aggressive and intimidating behaviour or he will be stripped of two of his roles, Dunedin City councillors decided today.

Cr Vandervis allegedly shouted at deputy mayor Christine Garey and pointed his finger in her face after a council meeting on July 28.

Independent investigator Steph Dyhrberg found Cr Vandervis breached the council's code of conduct.

Councillors unanimously backed a motion put forward by Cr Chris Staynes suggesting councillors accept the findings of the report and require Cr Vandervis to provide an "unreserved, written and public apology for his aggressive and intimidating behaviour".

If no acceptable apology was received, the council would revoke Cr Vandervis' membership of the Otago Museum Trust Board and District Licensing Committee.

Cr Staynes and Cr David Benson-Pope suggested Cr Vandervis could benefit from seeking professional help or taking an anger-management course.

Cr Benson-Pope likened Cr Vandervis' conduct with that of a rugby player screaming at a referee.

He said Cr Vandervis continued to be in denial and Cr Benson-Pope urged him to take responsibility for his behaviour.

Mayor Aaron Hawkins compared Cr Vandervis' reaction with that of his four-year-old son, who was sometimes agrieved when called out for his conduct.

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

Mr Hawkins said the behaviour of the councillor was embarrassing.

Cr Sophie Barker said professional, courteous behaviour was needed in the workplace.

"It is completely unacceptable to bail someone up and shout at them."

The debate over Cr Vandervis' actions got under way at 1.30pm and began with him defending himself. He disputed the appointment of Ms Dyhrberg as investigator, he said, reading from a statement he sent to the Otago Daily Times just ahead of the discussion.

"This code of conduct report has been written by an investigator whose previous DCC code of conduct report was so deficient that she omitted to interview or communicate in any way with the complainant, completely contradicted herself on the fundamental issue of materiality, and ignored written first-person email evidence."

He disputed accusations he was "screaming and yelling" and that his face was only 20cm from Cr Garey.

However, he withdrew a comment about Cr Garey's make-up after reading the following from his statement:

"Deputy Garey and Cr  [Steve] Walker have accused me in this code of conduct of being excessively tall, male and red in the face. As Cr O’Malley noted, I have a ruddy complexion anyway.

"Regarding the other accusations, I refuse to have height-corrective or transgender surgery, or to employ make-up like Deputy Garey to hide my true face."

Cr Garey issued a statement afterwards thanking her colleagues "for their definitive and emphatic response with the tools they currently have available to them".

"The wider issue is that there are limited tools within local government to deal with such extreme behaviour," Cr Garey said.

"I welcome the work that has already begun at a  national level to address this matter. I will continue to support these efforts to ensure that we have the means to hold people to account within local government."

Cr Staynes said he expected that in the private sector, such offending would at least result in a formal written warning and, for multiple breaches, in dismissal.

Cr Vandervis previously issued an apology for "loudness", though other councillors have called the apology weak and pathetic.

Cr Garey and two other councillors, Steve Walker and Marie Laufiso, laid complaints the day after the July meeting.

Mr Hawkins and seven councillors deliberated.


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I can just imagine the frustration of councilor Vandervis in dealing year after year with mayors, councilors and minor beaurecrates who stonewall or want to leave their mark on Dunedin with or without the approval of its ratepayers and at their expense. Councilor Vandervis has consistantly asked for fiscal restraint and accountability due to debt levels particularly with some of the more flakey ideas that have happened and been suggested.I see nothing wrong with that and hope it continues. So do many of Dunedins ratepayers as apparant with the election results. A vote of no confidence ignores that vote and hopefully he wont resign.

...because that makes the behaviour acceptable how?

Yes, frustration is understandable. And I'm definitely not going to defend the performance of this or previous Councils. Unfortunately, the message can be obscured by the delivery, and it seems to me that Mr Vandervis lets his desire to vent his "frustration" get in the way of constructive critical engagement. In no workplace is it OK to shout at co-workers or to intrude into their personal space with aggressive gestures so, if this is actually what happened, then Mr Vandervis is out of line. If he wants his message to get through, it is time Mr Vandervis stopped behaving in a way that allows his views to be overshadowed by his delivery: it's called being professional, and it is the least we should be expecting from the people we pay to represent us.

Allegedly "pointed in Cr Garey's face" trial by media it seems, besides who paid the "independent" lawyer for their time?.....

Informed by media.
Of course, if you prefer not to be, avoid media.

But why, why, why can't people just say what they mean?

There is such a a thing as talking to the parties concerned (gasp), and who paid the investigator?.


They do, clearly, and they are reported. News coverage does not constitute 'trial'.

Barker: showing courage and principles. Very well done. Houlahan: showing plenty of guts and taking responsibility for being part of the solution. Staynes: once more demonstrating what a nice guy he is.
Vandervis: nasty personal counter-attack on Garey and demonstrating his belief in his own infallibility. And complete rejection of any possibility that he has a serious anger management problem. Ugh! Am no longer a fan. How about Barker for mayor of Dunedin one day?

I am astounded that any councillor who has made an accusation against Mr Vandervis this time or ANY previous time could be allowed to sit in judgement against him.
So whats next, trial by a jury consisting of someones accuser and their family or political friends. Typical of greens, perverting justice to meet their own ends.

But oh, someone told me no. I must be being bullied. Time to clean out this council and appoint some real independent commisioners.

There would be very few / if any that he has not abused. That is what he does, it is his personality and it is total unacceptable.
I am amazed that in this day and age when bullying is not acceptable and suicides have resulted from such behaviour that Vandervos is not completely removed from the Council.

Watching and listening to his monologue he’s a narcissist and needs to be gone. His comments re a transgender operation only serve to reaffirm his unsuitability for such a responsible position.

And beware the FLYING MONKEYS!

The attacks on Vandervis have started early. Aaron must be worried.

Councilor Vandervis is the most experience and the best one for the Dunedin rate payers, these Green thinking Councilors are just no good for the City, or the rate payers.

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