Member of the public lays Code of Conduct complaint against Mayor Cull

Received.
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 at 11:41 p.m.

From: Chris Staynes
Date: 18 December 2015 at 8:23:07 PM NZDT
To: Diane Yeldon
Cc: Sandy Graham, Sue Bidrose, Lee Vandervis
Subject: Code of conduct.

Dear Ms Yeldon,
I refer to your email to me on 17 December 2015 making a Code of Conduct complaint about Mayor Cull. I provide the following response.

The Code requires that any alleged breach involving the Mayor is reported to me in the first instance. In receiving the complaint as Deputy Mayor I then have to be satisfied that there are “reasonable grounds for believing that a provision of the Code has been breached”.

I have reviewed the Code and Standing Orders and have concluded that there are not reasonable grounds for thinking a provision has been breached and as such I will not be progressing the matter. I now outline my reasons for reaching this conclusion.

The Code of Conduct (section J2.2) requires that the Mayor is responsible for ensuring the orderly conduct of business as determined in standing orders. There is also a requirement that the community have their concerns listened to and deliberated on in accordance with the requirements of the Act (section J 3.3). Therefore, the principles of the code of conduct may apply to the conduct of speakers at a public forum.

Standing Orders (section F7) provides that the Chairperson has the discretion to decline to hear speakers at the Public Forum where the number of speakers exceeds the time allocation for the Public Forum.

On Friday afternoon, Ms Jordan was advised by the Mayor that given the size of the Council agenda to be considered at the meeting, the public forum was fully subscribed. He instructed that no further speakers were to be taken. At the time of that advice, you had not indicated you wished to speak.

You advised an interest in speaking by email on Sunday, 13 December 2016. You were telephoned and advised on Monday morning that the public forum was fully subscribed. You withdrew your request to speak at the public forum during this conversation. You subsequently arrived at the public forum requesting to speak. There was no additional speaking time for the public forum period (as all speakers had used their maximum time) and at the meeting the Mayor declined your request to speak.

It is not a breach of standing orders to decline the opportunity for a speaker to speak at a Public Forum, even though the request was made within time and standing orders provides for the opportunity to extend the Public Forum (section F2). It is not mandatory for the Chairperson to have a resolution of the meeting to extend public forum as the discretion sits with the Chairperson before the meeting commences to accept or decline speakers. As regards the prioritisation of public forum speakers for those talking to agenda items, the priority of speaking is set at the time the public forum content is confirmed.

For the reasons above, I have concluded that there has been no breach of the Council’s standing orders and that therefore no breach of the code of conduct has occurred in this case.

Agenda papers are available on the Council website on the Wednesday evening prior to the Council meeting (in this case on 9 December 2015) and I would encourage you to give earlier notice of your wish to speak to ensure that you do have an opportunity to speak to agenda items at future meetings.

I have copied the original recipients of your email in my response to you.

Regards,

Chris Staynes.

Sent from my iPad Pro

———————————————

Dear Ms Yeldon,
This email is to confirm that I have received your Code of Conduct complaint and I am considering the matters raised, once I have completed this I will get back in touch with you.

Regards,

Chris Staynes.

Sent from my iPad Pro

———————————————

On 17/12/2015, at 6:30 AM, Diane Yeldon wrote:

Dear Cr Staynes, I wish to make a Code of Conduct complaint against Mayor Cull. At the last full meeting of the council (14th December, 2015), I had given notice to Pam Jordan (Governance) that I wished to speak at Public Forum. When she told me that the meeting was heavily booked I said I would withdraw because my topic (support for alternative transport modes) was not time dependent. Then at 9.00 am I attended the continuation of the adjourned previous council meeting and saw the agenda for the meeting of the 14th. It is a matter of record that I made an official information request about the Procurement Policy which was being developed by the Risk and Audit Subcommittee with virtually all meetings and all meeting content in non-public. Grace Ockwell responded by telling me that the proposed policy would be public when it went to a council meeting. So the morning of 14th Dec was my first chance to see this proposed policy (although I could have seen it a few days earlier when the agenda became public if I had known to look but Grace never told me WHICH meeting it would be going to).

So [I] asked Pam Jordan if I could speak at Public Forum to that agenda item because it was the only chance I could possibly get. What I wanted to ask the council was for the policy to be open to public submissions because the whole process had been totally non-transparent. There had been considerable public comment on Mr Epere with his criminal background getting a council contract after asking at a public forum (surely not in the first place an appropriate use of a council public forum to ask for personal advantage!). There had also been considerable public interest in the [Citifleet] fraud with the main question being, “Where is the independent oversight of in-house council activities to prevent fraud?”

There had been further public interest in the issue of the contracted out mudtank cleaning with the public revelation that the contracted service had no sucker truck in Dunedin so clearly could not have been doing the work all the time. Then there was further public comment from an arborist who [publicly] said that the tree felling at Logan Park cost the Council far too much. Then a local painter, Dean Kelly, publicly said he was unfairly deprived of council contracts because they always went to the ‘big guys’.

This last comment raises the issue of whether the council should prefer local contractors over outsider to the city to stimulate the local economy and, further break up contracts into smaller chunks so that smaller local businesses can get a look in (when times are hard, the odd council job may stop them from going under). Further to this, there was the Public Forum submission of Ms Annaliese de Groote who asked that the DCC have a policy of giving work opportunities to people with disabilities.

All of the above matters are in the public interest and warrant discussion by the community they affect.

Standing Orders require councillors to value participation and engagement in council matters from members of the public. Standing Orders also provide for setting aside 60 minutes of a council meeting for public forum speakers. If the 60 minutes is used up, then Standing Orders allow the meeting chair to put it to the meeting that public forum be extended. I was the only further speaker at that meeting (14th Dec). Mayor Cull knew I wanted to speak to the agenda item (17) of the Proposed Procurement Policy. He also knew it was the only possible opportunity I or any member of the public would be able to comment on it because it was not going to be open for public submissions and was going to be decided at that very meeting.

Other Public Forum speakers who were not speaking to an agenda item preceded me. I am sure if the question of whether public forum might be extended (only by five minutes) to allow me to speak to an agenda item had been put to the meeting that the meeting would have agreed.

So the conclusion I come to is that Mayor Cull does not value input and engagement from members of the public. He does not do what he can to promote it. And so by his actions towards me at the last council meeting he has not upheld the Council’s Code of Conduct.

I have read the procedure for Code of Conduct complaints in the Appendix to the Dunedin City Council’s Standing Orders and I await your further instructions on carrying out this process.

Sincerely
Diane Yeldon

Dunedin City Council – Standing Orders (PDF, 856 KB)
28 Oct 2015: The Standing Orders set out rules for the conduct meetings of the Dunedin City Council and includes the Code of Conduct for Elected Members, as adopted at the inaugural Council meeting Oct 2010.

Committee Structures and Delegations Manual (PDF, 557 KB)
21 Apr 2015: This document details the constitution of the Council, Committees and Subcommittees, and the delegations to the Chief Executive.

Tabled at the full Council meeting on Monday 14 December:
Report – Council – 14/12/2015 (PDF, 143.8 KB)
Procurement Policy (Proposed), December 2015

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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21 Comments

Filed under Business, DCC, Democracy, Dunedin, Economics, Name, Ombudsman, People, Politics

21 responses to “Member of the public lays Code of Conduct complaint against Mayor Cull

  1. russandbev

    Quite clear from this response that:

    Someone determines who is to speak at a public forum and that the possibility exists for an “unwelcome” potential speaker to be sidelined by the decision of whoever it is that determines who will speak, so who determines who speaks and in which order?

    While it may not be mandatory for Cull to measure the meeting’s willingness to hear more submissions particularly when they relate to agenda items, by not doing so it increases the perception that he, and he alone, decides who to allowed to speak. We already know that being allowed to speak and being listened to are two different things.

    Once again it shows a lack of transparency and a degree of arrogance.

  2. Diane Yeldon

    The DCC’s new Procurement Policy says it will result in increased transparency and accountability. However so far (up the council meeting on 14 December 2015), members of the public have not been able to see it, a councillor has been told he couldn’t attend to observe meetings developing it (wrong, all councillors have legal observers rights at all council meetings even when they are not members of the committee or subcommittee in question) and finally, at the last council meeting when it was going to be adopted by DCC WITHOUT any input from the public who have never had a chance to see it before, Cr Vandervis is not allowed to speak about it and I, as a member of the public am not allowed to speak about it.

    Now let’s have a look at the membership of the Audit and Risk Subcommittee and who IS allowed to know about it.
    If I do a search for Minutes of this Subcommittee on the DCC website, I get about 14 hits. So there have been at least 14 meetings of this subcommittee. Here’s the link shortened: http://goo.gl/qUPmFs

    On the meeting of 3 December 2014, I see tag noting that there has been an Official Information request about the business of this subcommittee which is meeting pretty much all in non-public (in the cosy little Otaru Room behind the DCC Service Centre barricades) and also has a membership NOT totally composed of elected DCC reps. Funny that. So people (like Crs Hawkins or Vandervis) who Dunedin voters did elect, can attend only as observers and both of them did on at least one occasion as the minutes show this. But they are not part of the decision making because they are not members of this subcommittee. The membership would have been decided at a council meeting by majority vote.

    So here are excerpts from the minutes of the first meeting of the Audit and Risk Subcommittee.

    (begins)
    MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE AUDIT AND RISK
    SUBCOMMITTEE HELD IN THE EDINBURGH ROOM,
    MUNICIPAL CHAMBERS ON TUESDAY, 27 MAY 2014,
    COMMENCING AT 2.00 PM
    PRESENT: Susie Johnstone (Chairperson), Janet Copeland,
    Councillors Chris Staynes, Richard Thomson and Hilary Calvert
    IN ATTENDANCE: Grant McKenzie (Group Chief Financial Officer), Sandy Graham (Group Manager, Corporate Services), Ian Lothian
    (Audit Director, Audit NZ), Sefton Vuli (Audit Manager, Audit NZ), Councillor Lee Vandervis and Wendy Collard (Governance Support Officer)
    (ends)

    Readers can see the membership of this subcommittee: Crs Staynes, Thomson and Calvert. Just three elected reps. But the Mayor is ex-officio a member of every committee and subcommittee. So Mayor Cull, although not at this meeting is also a member. However, Cr Vandervis, who was also present, is noted as being ‘in attendance’ because he is NOT a member of the subcommittee and cannot take part in discussion or vote but can only observe.

    Something else odd – the Chair of the subcommittee is not a councillor at all. It is Susie Johnstone. And Janet Copeland is also a member but not a councillor. So what is going on? People who were voted by Dunedin residents on to the DCC CANNOT make decisions and people who were NOT voted onto the DCC CAN make decisions. To see what is going on, I looked further at the minutes.

    (begins)
    7 DELEGATIONS OF THE AUDIT AND RISK SUBCOMMITTEE
    A report from the Group Manager Corporate Services (Sandy Graham) provided a copy of the responsibilities and delegations of the Audit and Risk Subcommittee as adopted by Council at its meeting held on 19 May 2014.
    Following discussion it was moved (Johnstone/Calvert):
    “That the Subcommittee review the Audit and Risk Subcommittee delegations against the Audit New Zealand checklist.”
    (ends)

    So ‘delegation’ means, “Can the DCC pass the responsibility for certain decision-making to this subcommittee”. Legally they have to be able to delegate their powers. The resolution talking about ‘reviewing the subcommittee’s delegations makes me suspect that the subcommittee’s members at this meeting were not quite sure if they did have, or legally could have, those delegated powers. In fact, I am somewhat surprised that a ‘meeting of the Dunedin City Council’ (because that is what this subcommittee is) has three DCC councillors as members and two non-councillors also as members. If you include the mayor as a member (and he is), then the make-up of this subcommittee is 4 elected reps to 2 outsiders. Who I don’t even know, let alone vote for. There’s 14 elected councillors plus the mayor, 15 decision-makers in total. Four of them are members of the subcommittee which means 11 Dunedin City Councillors are not. They may be unlikely to see the minutes of this subcommittee and will probably know nothing about it until the subcommittee’s recommendations come to a meeting of the full council to be agreed by council resolution. And that is what happened on 14 December 2015.

    Looking at the report in the agenda for the December DCC Meeting, it’s really quite short and brief. So what had these few people being discussing that had to stay out of public scrutiny – because virtually all their meetings are non-public, using this text:

    “That the public be excluded from the following parts of the proceedings of this meeting, namely, Items 9 – 10.
    The general subject of each matter to be considered while the public is excluded, the reason for passing this resolution in relation to each matter, and the specific grounds under Section 48(1) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 for the passing of this resolution are as follows:
    9 Insurance Renewal
    10 Internal Audit Report
    (ends)

    So the DCC has decided that the public cannot know about these two items.

    Now going back to the Official Information request someone had made. Here we see disclosed the kind of discussions that had been taking place: http://www.dunedin.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/493780/ma_audit_m_2014_12_03_-Extract-non-public.pdf

    I leave readers to their own conclusions about these discussions.
    Here’s another meeting where part of the non-public discussion has been subject to an Official Information request. So this is the link to the released minutes.

    My question is WHO WAS SCRUTINIZING THIS CONTENT AS WELL AS THIS PROCESS.
    Answer: pretty much no-one.

    • Gurglars

      Looks like the reinsurance is the next area for DCC scammers, like trying to get a bowl of spaghetti into a cat’s mouth.

    • Diane Yeldon

      03 December 2014
      • Minutes – Audit – 03/12/2014 (PDF, 77.3 KB)
      • Minutes – Audit – 03/12/2014 (PDF, 129.5 KB)
      Non-Public Meeting Minute Extract – Authorised for Release under LGOIMA

  3. Diane Yeldon

    Sorry. I omitted the second link. But you can see which meetings’ minutes have been subject to Official Info requests and then read those ones. WHY all the secrecy? Habit? Bad habit?

    • Elizabeth

      Diane, if you want to supply the second link, please do and we will insert it into your comment where you indicate. -Eds.

      • Diane Yeldon

        03 December 2014
        • Minutes – Audit – 03/12/2014 (PDF, 77.3 KB)
        • Minutes – Audit – 03/12/2014 (PDF, 129.5 KB)
        Non-
        Public Meeting Minute Extract – Authorised for Release under LGOIMA

        It’s all pretty boring. A lot of input from the Auditor-General’s Office.

        Just the Nov 2014 and the Dec 2014 have been the subject of an OI request.

  4. See this Dunedin City Council has brought another breach to DUNEDIN where it’s been over run with RATS as they had an issue of catching all cats here so they could eat them in restaurants and now all through South Dunedin where RATS are taking over this city and it’s worse than NEW YORK and that’s bad enough.

    • Diane Yeldon

      Dear Cr Staynes,
      Thank you for your reply. You say that, “There is also a requirement that the community have their concerns listened to and deliberated on in accordance with the requirements of the Act (section J 3.3).”

      I put it to you that this applies not only to speakers at Public Forum but also to members of the [public] who attend council meetings as observers. I have been attending council meetings as an observing member of the public for some time. The meeting of 14 December is not the first time when I believe there is clear evidence that Mayor Cull has acted towards members of the public present at meetings in a way that indicates that Mayor Cull does NOT value public participation.

      I refer to the Code of Conduct as follows:

      J3 Relationships and Behaviours
      This part of the code sets out the Council’s agreed standards of behaviour. Further guidance is also set out in the document “A Working Relationship for Elected Members and Council Officers”. Copies are available from the Governance Team. Elected members also need to be aware of the legislative requirements regulating their behaviour. Refer to the attachment to this appendix: JA1.

      J3.1 Relationships with Other Members
      Critical to the success of any democratically elected organisation is that mutual respect exists between members. With this in mind elected members shall conduct their dealings with each other in ways that:
      (a) Maintain public confidence in the office to which they have been elected
      (b) Are open and honest
      (c) Focus on issues rather than personalities
      (d) Avoid aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct.

      I believe and have good reason to believe that Mayor Cull has not complied with a), c) and d) of the above requirements.

      I ask you to also take into account Mayor Cull’s behaviour at the Council Meeting held on 28 April 2015. It is possible that you may decide to consider this as a separate and different complaint that Mayor Cull has seriously and more than once breached the Council’s Code of Conduct. However I am of the opinion that his behaviour at this meeting and also at the most recent meeting of 14 December 2015 demonstrate the same attitude of lack of respect for public participation and engagement. His behaviour at both meetings are, in the most part, a matter of record, the meeting of 28 April 2015 being somewhat confused by the matter of whether or not the meeting was legitimately adjourned. I believe Mayor Cull declared an adjournment unilaterally without putting the matter to the meeting as Standing Orders require. Therefore proceedings which were in fact part of the meeting were not recorded on the meeting video. However I do not presently dispute the legitimacy of this adjournment because there is no need for me to refer to any omissions in the meeting video as there were enough members of the public present as witnesses who will support my claims. Which are that Mayor Cull refused to allow members of the public present the right to see the text of a proposed resolution – a resolution which was not in the agenda.

      When I interjected, politely and asked, “Can members of the public present please have a copy of the resolution?” Mayor Cull responded to me in a contemptuous tone by saying, “No.” I said, “Why not?” Because Standing Order give members of the public present a meeting (the public part) the right to see the same documentation as councillors. Mayor Cull replied to me, again in a dismissive and contemptuous tome, “Because you are not part of the meeting.” I replied that as a member of the public I had a right to be present as an observer and [that] I could not follow the meeting if I did not know what [the] proposed resolutions were, the resolution under discussion was not in the agenda and the text on the whiteboard was far too small for most members of the public to read. Mayor Cull seemed to me to be advised by staff that members of the public did in fact have a right to copies of the resolutions so I further asked if members of the public could [please] have time to read the resolution. To which Mayor Cull replied, “No.” And once more I asked, “Why not?” To which Mayor Cull replied, “You can have the same time as the councillors.” And then added something to the effect that he was not discussing it any further, whereupon I thanked him and sat down. However I was EXTREMELY UPSET after this interchange. Elizabeth Kerr who was present at the meeting immediately came over to me to re-assure me and I held out my hand which was clearly trembling. I was very reluctant to return to further council meetings as an observer as I found the situation extremely stressful. Mayor Cull was not following both Standing Orders or the Code of Conduct on occasions. I had commented on this many times to governance staff, especially with respect to adjournments, which can be declared unilaterally by the chair only in emergency situations. Yet Mayor Cull was constantly declaring out of order ‘breaks’ or recesses’ which do not exist in Standing Orders and he was unilaterally declaring adjournments without putting it to the meeting for the meeting to decide as Standing Orders require.

      So Mayor Cull in my view has not been complying with the following:

      J3.3 Relationships with the Community
      Effective Council decision-making depends on productive relationships between elected members and the community at large.
      Members should ensure that individual citizens are accorded respect in their dealings with the Council, have their concerns listened to, and deliberated on in accordance with the requirements of the Act.
      Members should act in a manner that encourages and values community involvement in local democracy.

      I am well aware as a member of public I have no right to interject and did not intend to but my frustration over the unfairness of the meeting being conducted improperly by Mayor Cull as chair to the disadvantage of members of the public present was too much for me.

      Mayor Cull also seriously failed to comply with Standing Orders at the council meeting of 14 December 2015, when he repeatedly and subsequently further on reflection called Cr Vandervis ‘a liar’. As a member of the public present as an observer, I found this behaviour too also very upsetting, making me reluctant to return to observe further council meetings.

      The Code of Conduct states:

      J3.1 Relationships with Other Members
      Critical to the success of any democratically elected organisation is that mutual respect exists between members. With this in mind elected members shall conduct their dealings with each other in ways that:
      (a) Maintain public confidence in the office to which they have been elected
      (b) Are open and honest
      (c) Focus on issues rather than personalities
      (d) Avoid aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct.

      Mayor Cull most definitely breached these standards at the meeting of 14 December by his behaviour. In fact, I found his repeatedly calling Cr Vandervis ‘a liar’ shocking and I feel such behaviour brings the Dunedin City Council into disrepute. A chair of a local government meeting has the power to direct a council officer or even a member of the police to remove any person [causing] an unreasonable disturbance at a meeting. I have seen this done, when the chair gave calm instructions to a police officer present to escort outside a member of the public refusing to leave voluntarily. This was an example of good chairmanship. However I constantly observe the opposite from Mayor Cull, especially when he abuses his powers as chair to prevent other councillors from speaking. Members of the public have no right to comment on such things at a meeting but can comment later in [the] media and also discuss issues with council staff.

      I have done both of these things but both actions have not, in my opinion been sufficiently effective and I think it is very much in the public interest that Dunedin has good local government. Therefore I feel no option but to make a Code of Conduct complaint against the Mayor on the grounds that by his improper actions he is discouraging public participation. Ms Graham will be able to confirm that I discussed with her my making a complaint about the Mayor’s behaviour [at] the meeting of 28 April but [decided] that the process may be too stressful for me and that I decided to withdraw it. I do not, however, [intend] to withdraw this one, because this breach is, in my opinion, even more serious. I refer you to the speech Mayor Cull made at the meeting of 28 April of how important upholding the Code of Conduct is. In this respect, at least, I think he is correct and I agree with him.

      Meeting video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FySe1M8znOg
      Mayor Cull’s comments on the importance of the council upholding its own Code of Conduct begin at 2.03.46

      Sincerely,
      Diane Yeldon

      From: Chris Staynes
      Sent: Friday, 18 December 2015 8:23 PM
      To: Diane Yeldon
      Cc: Sandy Graham; Sue Bidrose; Lee Vandervis
      Subject: Code of conduct.

      Dear Ms Yeldon,
      I refer to your email to me on 17 December 2015 making a Code of Conduct complaint about Mayor Cull. I provide the following response.

      The Code requires that any alleged breach involving the Mayor is reported to me in the first instance. In receiving the complaint as Deputy Mayor I then have to be satisfied that there are “reasonable grounds for believing that a provision of the Code has been breached”.

      I have reviewed the Code and Standing Orders and have concluded that there are not reasonable grounds for thinking a provision has been breached and as such I will not be progressing the matter. I now outline my reasons for reaching this conclusion.

      The Code of Conduct (section J2.2) requires that the Mayor is responsible for ensuring the orderly conduct of business as determined in standing orders. There is also a requirement that the community have their concerns listened to and deliberated on in accordance with the requirements of the Act (section J 3.3). Therefore, the principles of the code of conduct may apply to the conduct of speakers at a public forum.

      Standing Orders (section F7) provides that the Chairperson has the discretion to decline to hear speakers at the Public Forum where the number of speakers exceeds the time allocation for the Public Forum.

      On Friday afternoon, Ms Jordan was advised by the Mayor that given the size of the Council agenda to be considered at the meeting, the public forum was fully subscribed. He instructed that no further speakers were to be taken. At the time of that advice, you had not indicated you wished to speak.

      You advised an interest in speaking by email on Sunday, 13 December 2016. You were telephoned and advised on Monday morning that the public forum was fully subscribed. You withdrew your request to speak at the public forum during this conversation. You subsequently arrived at the public forum requesting to speak. There was no additional speaking time for the public forum period (as all speakers had used their maximum time) and at the meeting the Mayor declined your request to speak.

      It is not a breach of standing orders to decline the opportunity for a speaker to speak at a Public Forum, even though the request was made within time and standing orders provides for the opportunity to extend the Public Forum (section F2). It is not mandatory for the Chairperson to have a resolution of the meeting to extend public forum as the discretion sits with the Chairperson before the meeting commences to accept or decline speakers. As regards the prioritisation of public forum speakers for those talking to agenda items, the priority of speaking is set at the time the public forum content is confirmed.

      For the reasons above, I have concluded that there has been no breach of the Council’s standing orders and that therefore no breach of the code of conduct has occurred in this case.

      Agenda papers are available on the Council website on the Wednesday evening prior to the Council meeting (in this case on 9 December 2015) and I would encourage you to give earlier notice of your wish to speak to ensure that you do have an opportunity to speak to agenda items at future meetings.

      I have copied the original recipients of your email in my response to you.

      Regards,

      Chris Staynes.

      • Diane Yeldon

        29th December, 2015
        Dear Cr Staynes, here is additional evidence that my Code of Conduct complaint against Mayor Cull has validity. I have observed at council meetings Mayor Cull’s reluctance and refusal to allow Cr Vandervis to speak when I see nothing out of order. The meeting of 14th December 2015 is a case in point. Calling a person a liar is neither engaging in debate, not carrying out the meeting in an orderly and proper manner. And certainly not complying with the Code of Conduct with respect to polite and considerate relationships between councillors, staff and members of the public. As a member of the public interest[ed] in local government and often attending council meetings as an observer it DOES affect me when elected representatives don’t comply with the Code of Conduct. I have no objection whatsoever to robust political debate as I think it is beneficial allowing all side[s] of a question to be brought to people’s notice, resulting in better decision-making. However I find name–calling and sheer nastiness and extreme personal dislike just destroys the proper conduct of the meeting and [brings] the council into disrepute and can certainly not promote good decision-making.
        It’s well known that Mayor Cull insulted Cr Vandervis publicly by calling his policies ‘shonky’ and there was some public discussion about whether this was a defamatory statement. It’s certainly impossible that Mayor Cull was expressing anything but personal opinions when he made this statement because there is no way such a dismissive, insulting and very likely defamatory statement could be published on behalf of the DCC (or the whole council would very likely be a making seriously defamatory statement).
        So I don’t know why no Code of Conduct complaint was brought against Mayor Cull [on] this occasion and for this reason. So would you please take this evidence of Mayor Cull’s personal dislike for Cr Vandervis to the point of making defamatory remarks about him and publishing them, or allowing them to be published, in local media as supporting evidence for my contention that Mayor Cull does not chair meetings properly with respect to allowing Cr Vandervis to speak (as happened on the meeting of 15th Dec 2015), has insulted him (as happened on the meeting of 14th December when he repeatedly called Cr Vandervis a liar), sometimes expressing and publishing insults and personal opinions (shonky?) which a court is very likely to find defamatory.
        Sincerely
        Diane Yeldon

        {Moderated. -Eds}

        • Diane Yeldon

          I mentioned that my son was recently admitted to the bar, having completed a law degree. But he explained to me that he cannot practise as a lawyer because he still has to pay a fairly stiff amount of money to join the lawyers’ professional association. He also made it quite clear to me that although he has a law degree and has been admitted to the bar, he can still not give legal advice. Hmm, interesting. What constitutes the difference between ‘legal advice’ which a lawyer, who has the right to practice law, gives and a ‘point of view’ from an amateur like me who just reads a law to see what it says? I found this on the internet:
          http://hirealawyer.findlaw.com/do-you-need-a-lawyer/what-is-legal-advice.html

          Quoting one critical part:
          In a nutshell, legal advice has the following characteristics:
          1) Requires legal knowledge, skill, education and judgment
          2) Applies specific law to a particular set of circumstances
          3) Affects someone’s legal rights or responsibilities
          4) Creates rights and responsibilities in the advice-giver (ends)

          Now consider the DCC Council meeting of 14 December 2015.

          Here’s the link to the video:

          Start watching at 2.04.20, when Cr Vandervis, by asking questions, starts raising the sort of issues I would have addressed if allowed to speak at the public forum; questions clearly in the public interest about sharing council work around local businesses, including the smaller ones. Shortly afterwards, Mayor Cull refuses to let him speak, on the grounds that he has ‘taken advice’. I assume that Mayor Cull had received this ‘advice’ from governance staff (who were in attendance at the meeting). The question in my mind is, “Did the governance staff give Mayor Cull legal advice during this meeting and if so, was it in order for them to do so?” Second question: “Did Mayor Cull then immediately act on the legal advice and, if so, was it proper for him to do so?”

          You are not allowed to practice law (give legal advice) unless you are properly qualified to do so. Excerpt from earlier link about what constitutes legal advice: People who either willingly or unknowingly give legal advice without the skill, judgment, or authority to do so are essentially participating in the unauthorised practice of law and, therefore, subject to court penalties. – See more at:
          http://hirealawyer.findlaw.com/do-you-need-a-lawyer/what-is-legal-advice.html#sthash.ak2Obt8q.dpuf

          I know I am quite likely to make mistakes when I just read laws because I don’t use a wide knowledge of how all relevant laws should be balanced and evaluated to make a judgement in a specific circumstance – which is what lawyers qualified to practice do. Well, I wonder if governance staff ARE qualified to practice law. It seems to me that Mayor Cull was given LEGAL ADVICE at that meeting because it curtailed Cr Vandervis’ right to speak ie ‘affected his rights’ and did so immediately as a result of Mayor Cull’s ruling based on the ‘advice’.

          However, I believe [the advice] was WRONG, because city councillors have ‘qualified privilege’ – similar to MPs, they may say something when the meeting is in session that might otherwise be considered defamatory because it is seen as being in the public interest for them to do so. As a member of the public, who voted for Cr Vandervis and wants him to ask searching questions at council meetings, and particularly wanted him to ask questions about DCC procurement and tenders (an area where the public has certainly been locked out as much as possible), I feel MY rights too, have been curtailed when he is INCORRECTLY made to be silent in council meetings.

          So a number of questions: Were governance staff giving legal advice at the meeting when they had no right to do so? Was the advice wrong? Did Mayor Cull have any grounds, reasons or rights to stop Cr Vandervis from speaking? Think I will forward this comment to Cr Staynes because it is relevant to my Code of Conduct complaint against the Mayor. And will also bring the issue to the attention of the New Zealand Law Society (Otago Branch) in the hope that they might be able to clarify the issues involved.

          {Moderated. -Eds}

        • Hype O'Thermia

          Diane, “a fairly stiff amount of money to join the lawyers’ professional association” – how much does it actually cost to join the lawyers’ union? Seems like a cunning plan to limit supply.

  5. Diane Yeldon

    Oh dear, dreadful hazard for local government activists – leaving the ‘ L’ out of ‘public’ – resulting in ‘pubic’. Have NEARLY done it many times. And have just done it in this very serious matter. Maybe let it stand, Elizabeth, as a warning to others! But we do use the word ‘public’ a great deal because local government is the form of government closest to the people and affects them every day and in every aspect of their lives – which is why having good local government is so important for all cities and communities.

    {Noted. -Eds}

  6. Calvin Oaten

    Diane Yeldon ought to have been included in the new year’s honours list for services to the community. Her work in drawing the pubLic’s attention to the outrageous conduct of our “tinpot dictator” mayor and his acolyte deputy in perverting the system to their own ends, is of inestimable value. This trimester must end with a clean out of the GD element around council table if this city is to have any hope of a “sustainable” future. Diane is to be applauded.

  7. Diane Yeldon

    Hype – true that the practising fee or whatever it is can look like keeping the club tight. But on the other hand it means (I think) that someone with a law degree needs to be kept up to scratch with changing amendments, judgement etc. So it can give clients confidence that the person giving the advice really is properly qualified and may be held accountable for any adverse consequences of incorrect or incomplete advice they may have given. More to the practice of the law than just reading a book and sitting an exam, I think. My son once said to me, “It’s not what you think, Mum. It’s more about ETHICS.”
    Thanks for the kudos, guys, but it has been a team effort. My thanks to Elizabeth and all posters and What If’s many silent readers.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Diane, I have seen no evidence that paying a large amount to join any group makes a person more ethical than a person who pays a small fee or is admitted free. Nor does paying a large amount make a person keep up to date with changes in their trade or profession. It sounds like your son has bought into the justifications for a closed shop before he could even afford to join it.
      Having seen recent hi-flier names, including people from legal and accounting and other “trusted” professions on the naughty step for very unethical deeds, I ain’t buying. My accountant I’d trust with my life, my money and feeding me my prescribed medications if I were beyond doing it for myself – IOW he is on the best end of the ethical continuum. On the other hand how about ex-councillor Michael Guest – and how about how long it took for the professional body to apply boot to backside?
      If your son cares about ethics that’s because he’s the kind of person he is. You can take some credit for that – not a lot, because some excellent people end up with kids who take the opposite path, they are individuals with their own natures and the best parents can do is their best, then hope the goodness has sunk in bone-marrow deep.

  8. Elizabeth

    Have to place a caution here. It’s a slippery slope to discuss family members anywhere not only on blogs. What we think they mean or do is sometimes very far from the mark we give them and our well-intended contextualisations can be rather importune.

    We all know that professional institutes have fees and they are for graded membership categories. If you are formally practising in your profession you must be ‘ticketed’ and obey the code of conduct set down for members as well as keep up with continuing professional development requirements. You are likely then to benefit from collegiality in the field and related fields as well as have access to professional indemnity cover options for your individual business practice. Supervision by higher ranking members is par for the course as is censure (legal and other) and disbarment if you are proven to have strayed. And so forth.

    Best advice must be leave family out of blogging efforts for want of better case studies or instances. If they want to comment here as individuals that’s their freedom of choice and they may exercise it anonymously or more transparently.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Fair enough, didn’t mean it to be about person but about general reasons given for high cost of membership being related to ethics and keeping up to date with standards in a profession. Apologies if I offended Diane or her son. The point I was trying to make – connection between belonging to a high-price union or professional organisation may look like there is a quality and integrity guarantee but as we have seen the brotherhood (yes, tendency to be more brothers than sisters in the discipline standard-setting & enforcing section of the “clubs”) show loyalty, tolerance and forbearance of error to “family” than to customers and the public at large.

      “Trust me – I’m a politician/used car salesman.”
      N.B. Some politicians and some people in the used car sales trade are honest and ethical.

      Professional unions are damned slow to respond to complaints. The medical profession is notorious for closing ranks, and for patch protection by refusing to accept qualifications from some countries which would be fair enough if it weren’t based on reciprocal agreements more political- than standards-based. Striking people off for being complained about would be absurd, but when a point is reached where there is sufficient reason for digging deep into the matter couldn’t there be an intermediate step, like being busted down to only working under direct supervision of a trusted member until the matter is cleared up one way or the other? Cr Guest’s “opportunities” continued and his reputation (barring those with access to the grapevine) remained OK.

      The priority of a union and those members who know what’s going on isn’t necessarily about protecting the public from predation.

      • Elizabeth

        No, I’m sorry but I must remonstrate. The institute fees are not excessive for what they must cover. You are confusing unions with membership of professional institutes some of which have been established by an act of parliament. Too easy to generalise. And as you know, women are just as easily corrupt as men. There is no gender distinction.

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