Otago Daily Times

Train­ing call for coun­cil­lors

- GRANT MILLER

NA­TIONAL rules for coun­cil­lor be­hav­iour and re­quir­ing coun­cil­lors to un­der­take pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment could help pre­vent ugly scenes such as those fea­tur­ing Dunedin’s Lee Van­dervis, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment commentato­r says.

‘‘There is no na­tional code of con­duct for lo­cal gov­ern­ment,’’ Massey Univer­sity se­nior lec­turer Andy Asquith said.

In­duc­tion pro­cesses for coun­cil­lors were ‘‘some­what hit and miss’’ through New Zealand and he felt more rig­or­ous train­ing for them could help raise the stan­dard.

Dr Asquith’s com­ments fol­lowed a series of prob­lems re­lated to coun­cil gov­er­nance in the coun­try.

In Dunedin, Cr Van­dervis could face sanc­tions for what an in­ves­ti­ga­tor found was in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iour.

Coun­cil­lors will de­cide on Tues­day whether Cr Van­dervis — about whom the Dunedin City Coun­cil has kept a sub­stan­tial file re­lat­ing to claims of bul­ly­ing and other in­ci­dents — breached the code of con­duct.

He is ac­cused of shout­ing at deputy mayor Chris­tine Garey after a July 28 coun­cil meet­ing, stand­ing over her and wav­ing his fin­ger in her face.

Cr Van­dervis will have the chance on Tues­day to de­fend his con­duct.

If he is found in breach by a panel of eight coun­cil­lors, pos­si­ble penal­ties in­clude sus­pen­sion from com­mit­tees or be­ing ‘‘in­vited’’ to re­sign.

He can­not be sacked.

When he read the range of penal­ties Cr Van­dervis could face, Dr Asquith laughed.

‘‘It’s a slap on the wrist, then,’’ he said.

How­ever, Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria in Welling­ton man­age­ment se­nior lec­turer Ge­off Plim­mer said the pri­vate sec­tor was not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter at han­dling such sit­u­a­tions.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions would of­ten do what was nec­es­sary to get to the bot­tom of al­le­ga­tions, he said.

How­ever, they tended to be not so good at cre­at­ing a cul­ture where bul­ly­ing was not tol­er­ated.

Nor did they tend to ex­cel at pick­ing up the pieces when dam­age had been caused, he said.

Work­place con­duct has been in the spot­light in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.

Law firm Rus­sell McVeagh has been un­der in­tense scru­tiny and the In­de­pen­dent Ex­ter­nal Re­view into Bul­ly­ing and Ha­rass­ment in the New Zealand Par­lia­men­tary Work­place fi­nal re­port was re­leased last year.

Dr Plim­mer said peo­ple were of­ten un­will­ing to take a stand and some be­hav­iours were am­bigu­ous.

‘‘Tra­di­tion­ally, peo­ple have tol­er­ated a lot of poor be­hav­iour,’’ Dr Plim­mer said.

The con­duct of Cr Van­dervis was ‘‘odd’,’ and in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iour was not mod­el­ling ‘‘ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship and cit­i­zen­ship’’, Dr Plim­mer said.

Cr Garey has said she ought to feel safe in what she called her work­place.

She also took aim at what seemed to be a pat­tern of be­hav­iour from Cr Van­dervis.

Cr Van­dervis did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment yes­ter­day.

 ??  ?? Lee Van­dervis
Lee Van­dervis

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