Dunedin: Vandervis complaint lodged with police [update]

Updated post 25.12.13 at 12:56 a.m.

From ODT Archives (via Lee Vandervis):
Chris Morris. Local Body Elections 2013: How they rated
[councillors] Link 1 Link 2
[mayor] Link 1 Link 2
The article appeared in print and digital editions on Saturday 19 Sept 2013, and at ODT Online the next day. The full article is no longer available at ODT Online or Google cache.

Received from Lee Vandervis.
Monday, 23 December 2013 4:11 p.m.

{Personal contact details and email addresses have been removed. Owing to limitations of the WordPress template minor changes have been made to the layout of the email for legibility. The italics are ours. Read the 2001 Local Electoral Act here. -Eds}

—— Forwarded Message

On 23/12/13 1:53 PM, “Debbie Porteous” [ODT] wrote:

Hi Lee, just arrived in for the day…have you had a chance to lay your complaint yet?
regards
Debbie.

.

From: Lee Vandervis
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2013 16:03:20 +1300
To: Debbie Porteous [ODT]
Conversation: Morning Report
Subject: Re: Morning Report

Hi Debbie,

After 3 days of attempts to lodge a complaint with the Police I was finally able to lodge my complaint under the Electoral Act 2001 today against the ODT for their Councillors Ratings publication on the day that most voters received their voting papers.

In addition to the complaint which I have already forwarded, I today added the following Appendix detailing several of the alleged cases to answer.

CIB Detective Brett {Roberts} took detailed notes as well as my prepared material and copies of evidence and said he would write the case up for me to confirm in the next few days. From then it would be up to Police lawyers in Wellington to decide whether or not to proceed with a prosecution.

Let me know if further detail would be helpful.

Kind regards,
Lee

From: Lee Vandervis
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2013 10:18:37 +1300
To: “ROBERTS, Alan (Brett)” [NZ Police]
Conversation: APPENDIX – Local Electoral Act 2001 breaches – Section 122 Case to Answer
Subject: APPENDIX – Local Electoral Act 2001 breaches – Section 122 Case to Answer

Dear Police.

There is a case to answer for the ODT because of the Councillor Ratings publication breach of several different provisions of section 122:

122 Interfering with or influencing voters

● (1) Every person commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000, who—

(a) interferes in any way with any person who is about to vote with the intention of influencing or advising that person as to how he or she should vote:

(b) prints, publishes, distributes, or delivers to any person (using any medium or means of communication) a document, paper, notice, or message, being or purporting to be in imitation of any voting document to be used at the election or poll that,—

—(i) in the case of an election, includes the name of a candidate or candidates, together with any direction or indication as to the candidate or candidates for whom any person should vote:

—(iii) in any way contains or suggests any such direction or indication or other matter likely to influence how any person votes:

.

(a) Was the timing of the ODT Councillor rating publication perfectly timed to influence voters?
YES it arrived in the mail on the Saturday 21st September when most voters would have just received their voting papers in the mail, either Thursday 19th or Friday 20th. It was delivered as near as could be timed to influence voting.
[18 Council candidates featured in ads and articles in this prime election newspaper (apart from the offending Councillor Rating pages) with the Mayor in 3 ads and Cr Wilson in 2.] The timing precluded any Councillor opportunity to effectively rebut what was claimed in the Councillor Ratings.
[see Cr Stevenson email 8/12/13 below…’to allow those reported on and members of the public some time to respond publically {sic}.’]

Was the publication intending to influence or advise voters?
YES­ it was advertised on the ODT’s biggest circulation day of the week along the top of the front page as ‘CHRIS MORRIS RATES DUNEDIN COUNCILLORS The best and the worst performers. p30-31’.
The two page spread also claimed authority, with the introduction lauding ‘reporter Chris Morris [who] has occupied a unique vantage point on the press bench, watching more of the debate unfold than any other member of the public’. [It fails to note that most Councillor work is in non-public meetings and in individual contacts for which an ODT reporter has no vantage point. This issues {sic} was highlighted verbally to me by Cr Hudson.]
The claimed authority in this context IS intention to influence. Add biased text and you have perverting influence.
The addition of a rating/10 IS intention to advise.
The ODT spread gave a white-washed glowing account of Mayor Cull over six columns [whose previous election campaign was partly financed by ODT owner Julian Smith and campaign managed by Julian Smith’s regular advertising consultant Tony Crick, who has continued to design and manage Mayor Cull’s subsequent GREATER DUNEDIN electoral campaigns], and gave me one column of
the most slanderous print I have ever read of any Councillor anywhere. All GREATER DUNEDIN candidates got scores of 6/10 or better. No Councillor with a score of less than 6/10 was re-elected.

(b) Did the ODT print, publish, distribute, or deliver to any person…a paper being or purporting to be in imitation of any voting document to be used at the election or poll that,

—(i) in the case of an election, includes the name of a candidate or candidates, together with any direction or indication as to the candidate or candidates for whom any person should vote?
YES The format of the ODT Rating publication closely followed the format of the official INSTRUCTIONS & CANDIDATE INFORMATION booklet that accompanied all voting papers. Like the booklet, each Councillor’s column led with the Councillor’s name, followed with a passport-sized photograph, and then followed with about 150 words of text [except for the Mayor’s extensive praise].
In the booklet however, the Candidate Information Handbook specifies that 150 word candidate profiles ‘must be true and accurate’. The ODT ratings were anything but true and accurate. They not only rated, but white-washed GREATER DUNEDIN candidates and pilloried others.

—(iii) in any way contains or suggests any such direction or indication or other matter likely to influence how any person votes?
YES. The rating/10 strongly suggested that those above 5/10 should be voted with a high STV ranking and those below 5/10 should not.
The dumping of two longstanding Councillors given 4/10 and 3/10 respectively proved the effectiveness of this influence, not just in the ratings but in the accompanying damning text. The ODT Ratings publication was intended to be an influencing version modelled on the official voter INSTRUCTIONS & CANDIDATE INFORMATION booklet, and one which gave voters a quick easy way of ‘knowing how to vote’. [eg see ODT letter to the Editor 7/9/13 ex Ann Coup – attached]

Dumped long-standing ex-Cr Hudson has been supportive of my making a criminal complaint under the Local Electoral Act. He has told me that the reason he could not effectively make a complaint himself was because it would be perceived and presented as ‘sour grapes’. He added that he wished that he too had cancelled his ODT advertising after the Chris Morris Councillor Ratings was published. There was no alternative print or TV media in Dunedin for either of us to advertise in as they are all owned by Allied Press Ltd.

Dumped long-standing Cr Stevenson was devastated by the Councillor Ratings publication. She initially verbally supported my draft complaint to the Electoral Commission:

From: Lee Vandervis
Sent: Tuesday, 22 October 2013 1:01 p.m.
To: Teresa Stevenson
Subject: Re: Positions of responsibility

Hi Teresa,

I found the whole skateboards debate to be a red herring and did not pay much attention to who said what.
Maybe if you check the videos on the DCC website you can get exact quotes.

Would you be interested in lending your name to my proposed Electoral Act complaint?

Cheers,
Lee

From: Teresa Stevenson
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:12:19 +1300
To: Lee Vandervis
Subject: RE: Positions of responsibility

yep

…but has subsequently expressed the personal ‘wish to move on’.

From: Lee Vandervis
Sent: Friday, December 06, 2013 9:11 PM
To: Teresa Stevenson
Subject: Re: Draft Formal Complaint to the Electoral Commission – your suggestions would be much appreciated.

Hi Teresa,

The draft below is intended to go to the Electoral Commission and the Minister for Local Government, with other versions going to the Press Council and to nationwide media.
Paul Hudson has verbally confirmed his interest in adding his approval to this formal complaint.
I would be interested to know if you have any suggestions for improving this draft, and if you have any interest in adding your approval to it, as an obviously effected {sic} candidate.
My primary reason for making the complaint is to prevent the recurrence of what I believe to be a gross manipulation of our electoral process by our monopoly media.

Looking forward to any comment you may have.

Kind regards,
Lee

From: Teresa Stevenson
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2013 10:48:23 +1300
To: Lee Vandervis, Teresa Stevenson
Subject: Re: Draft Formal Complaint to the Electoral Commission – your suggestions would be much appreciated.

I now wish to move on in my life, and do not want to re-raise this reporting which I personally felt was unbalanced, however I do not want the whole thing to be publically {sic} raised again.

I sincerely hope the Press Council and the NZ newspaper editors give some guidelines to how report card style reporting can be done better in the future, with any positive or negative grading being scored evenly on set factors, with more than one person doing the grading to avoid perceptions of bias, this should be easily achieved with the video recording of council meetings; report cards should also be published prior to the sending out of voting papers to allow those reported on and members of the public some time to respond publically {sic}. I have expressed my views with our ODT editor whom may consider these matters in future reporting.

I have experienced some positive press coverage from the ODT in the past, for example when I was first elected in 2004. So much so that there were private Councillor jokes about me sleeping with the ODT reporter.
However, after loudly voicing opposition to the unaffordable public funding of the proposed Stadium [ODT manager/owner was a founding member of ‘Our Stadium’ stadium promotion group] my ODT coverage became very negative in 2007 with a new DCC reporter, and I subsequently lost the 2007 election.
Subsequent ODT coverage since 2007 has been variable.
Mark Twain made a telling point when he said ‘Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.’

This complaint is not intended to pick a fight, but is a necessary attempt to delineate how far our monopoly media may go in influencing voters under the provisions of the Local Electoral Act 2001.
In publishing the Councillor Ratings on the day most voters received their papers, I submit that the ODT has [breached] the Act repeatedly and in many parts.

The Police prosecution that I am seeking is necessary to prevent a recurrence and foreshadowed extension of the Councillor Ratings to future Local Body Elections.
The pillars of Democracy on which our society stands have been eroded by the ODT Councillor Ratings publication, the 2013 Dunedin election has been skewed, and the make-up of the elected Councillors significantly and surprisingly changed.

I look forward to the Police acting appropriately with a decision to prosecute.
Cr Lee Vandervis

—— End of Forwarded Message

[ends]

Related Post and Comments:
19.12.13 Dunedin: On the 2001 Local Electoral Act, and more [Complaint]
22.9.13 Newspaper errs . . . #Dunedin #Elections

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

12 Comments

Filed under DCC, Democracy, Media, New Zealand, People, Politics

12 responses to “Dunedin: Vandervis complaint lodged with police [update]

  1. Semper Fidelis

    Well done Lee. I think it was Jefferson who said, “When Injustice becomes the rule, Revolution becomes a Duty.” You are proudly doing your Duty.

  2. Calvin Oaten

    After reading this long synopsis, together with previous supportive information, it would be very hard to imagine the police lawyers in Wellingon not prosecuting this complaint with full diligence. Lee, you deserve full recognition for pushing this to its limits. This town has got to be unshackled from the control of the ‘old guard’.

  3. ### ODT Online Tue, 24 Dec 2013
    Complaint laid over ‘ODT’ article
    By Debbie Porteous
    Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis has laid a complaint with the police against Allied Press over the publication of an Otago Daily Times article rating councillors’ performance in the last term.
    Read more

  4. Updated post. Links to ODT opinion piece (21.9.13) added.

  5. marious

    Good on you Lee you will continue to have my support.

  6. Hype O'Thermia

    Interesting……. http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/286076/vandervis-plans-complaint-over-odt-article#comment-51118
    “Vandervis plans complaint over ODT article
    The comment you are replying to does not exist.”

    This is the comment to which I replied:
    “Silly season

    Submitted by Get real on Fri, 20/12/2013 – 11:17am.
    Is it April fools day? Has Vandervis actually achieved anything in the last term as a councillor, other than “ANTI” everything?
    Here is few tips for you for the next year, which I am sure you will ignore.
    Try and be constructive.
    Get over the Stadium (it’s actually too late now).
    And try and get on a committee, so you can actually have an input to the running of Dunedin.
    Good luck, and look forward to your progress towards a better scorecard next year!”

    And here is my reply – unpublished because Comments on this article had been zapped out of existence, except that on the internet it’s not so easy to make things vanish:

    “Someone needs to be ANTI.
    Submitted by Hype.O.Thermia on Fri, 20/12/2013 – 1:35pm.
    Get real criticises Lee Vandervis, asking if he has “actually achieved anything in the last term as a councillor, other than “ANTI” everything?” I for one have been appreciative of his efforts to turn his fellow councillors ANTI extravagance, and ANTI poorly thought-out decisions. It is a sad fact that he is often a lone voice – just like the little boy who was ANTI all those who all admired the work of the tailors when he cried out “The Emperor’s got no clothes!” Sometimes the “odd one out” is not the one who has got it wrong, it’s worth examining the issues from the point of view of sense, rather than how many people are bleating “Rah-rah me too”.”

    • Probably sensible of the editor not to have Get real’s comment up… given the formal complaint now lodged against the Allied Press Ltd – how it ever made it to public domain is a lovely query! The words used by Get real (thanks for reproducing them, Hype) suggest only a small number of possible authors (who use exactly the same words), or rather just one.

  7. At another thread, Alistair points out the un-subtle gaff – contrived after the fact of Lee Vandervis’ formal complaint lodged with NZ Police – how DUMBASS is this, ODT ?!

    https://dunedinstadium.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/dia-insights-pokie-rorts-money-go-rounds-names/#comment-43960

  8. Hype O'Thermia

    Such a pity they didn’t mention the gaggle of headless ghosts following one another around in ever-decreasing circles to the accompaniment of jingling coin sounds. You know, the ones known as the living/dead Pro-Stadium Councillors.

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