Tag Archives: Dunedin public

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

Dunedin: On the 2001 Local Electoral Act, and more [Complaint]

Received from Lee Vandervis.
Thursday, 19 December 2013 11:56 a.m.

{Copy of this complaint has been forwarded to Wilma McCorkindale (Fairfax News) and Debbie Porteous (ODT) who met Lee Vandervis this morning. The layout of the forwarded email has been slightly modified due to limitations of the WordPress template. Some personal contact details and email addresses have been removed or deactivated. -Eds}

—— Forwarded Message

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Formal Complaint to the Electoral Commission, and Hon Chris Tremain – Minister for Local Government
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 08:32:24 +1300
From: Lee Vandervis
To: feedback @ elections.org.nz, c.tremain @ ministers.govt.nz

Formal Complaint to the Electoral Commission 10/12/2013

Dear Electoral Commission and Hon Chris Tremain – Minister for Local Government.

I wish to make a formal complaint regarding a breach of section 197 of the NZ Electoral Act 1993 [Reprint as at 5 August 2013];

197 Interfering with or influencing voters

● (1) Every person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who at an election—

g) at any time on polling day before the close of the poll exhibits in or in view of any public place, or publishes, or distributes, or broadcasts,—

● (i) any statement advising or intended or likely to influence any elector as to the candidate or party for whom the elector should or should not vote;

Specifically under the Local Electoral Act 2001

Part 7 http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2001/0035/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM94784
Offences http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2001/0035/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM94784

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:

—(ii) in the case of a poll, includes a statement or indication as to how 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:

(c) prints, publishes, or distributes any instruction on the method of marking the voting document that differs in any material way from the instructions required by this Act or any regulations made under this Act to accompany the voting document.

.

On the Saturday 21st of September 2013, the day on which the majority of Dunedin voters would have received their voting papers in the mail, the weekend edition of the Otago Daily Times printed an unprecedented 2 page “LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS HOW THEY RATED Opinion: Council reporter Chris Morris’ ratings of the council’s best and worst performers” which I allege was clearly designed to influence or advise voters as to how they should vote.
This ODT ratings of Councillors was authoritatively described in the introduction as being from “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 much Councillor work is in non-public meetings and in individual contacts which an ODT reporter has no knowledge of.]
In this 2 page publication, the Mayor and each Councillor was named and photo shown followed by a column of text, in a format similar to the electoral information booklet accompanying voting papers, – additionally scored/10, and ‘Standing again’ noted. The text ‘opinion’ that accompanied each Councillor’s numerical/10 rating was heavily emotive, biased, and largely devoid of fact in many instances.
Further, I believe that the effect of this publication had a significant effect on voting to the extent that no Councillor that received a Chris Morris rating of less than 6/10 was re-elected. This despite two sitting Councillors of long experience, Cr Paul Hudson and Cr. Teresa Stevenson, looking likely to be re-elected but severely disadvantaged in this publication with damning comment and scores of 4/10 and 3/10 respectively. Cr. Hudson’s lost seat in particular was a surprise as he had a strong advertising campaign as well as a long uninterrupted Councillor history. Cr. Stevenson’s campaign was minimal, but always had been in the past and had still been enough to ensure uninterrupted re-election for many prior terms.
Although re-elected myself with a comfortable first interation selection, I believe that the ODT ratings publication severely impacted both my Mayoral and my Councillor vote, as a result of a slew of slanderous personal attacks in my single ratings column, contrasting strongly with Mayor Cull’s six columns of mostly misleading praise.

Mayor Cull’s praise included claiming he had delivered on promises of spending cuts, efficiencies, and greater transparency, when Mayor Cull’s Council had in fact increased debt by a record $176 million, failed to reduce bloated staff costs, and organised a secret caucus Liaison Committee which illegally prevented Councillors outside the Committee from attending. Mayor Cull also falsely claimed in his electoral pamphlet that his Council had saved ratepayers $100 million in interest costs by reducing the Stadium debt term from 40 years, when in fact it was Mayor Cull’s Council that had increased the term to 40 years in the first place.
The slanderous adjectives used by Chris Morris in my column included; “hogging…headlines [ironically this same reporter was responsible for most headlines], accused of getting facts wrong, grandstanding or a bullying tone, irate outburst, when angry as he often appears, his boiling shade of red is a sight to behold. Can sit like a storm cloud in council meetings, seemingly ready to erupt, walk out, or both.”…

The clear intention to influence and advise voters in this unprecedented 2 page slander of some candidates, and whitewash of others, could not be more plain.
The devastating result on the election outcome was also marked, as the ODT is the only local Dunedin daily newspaper, and the other local weekly and local TV channel are all owned by the same Allied Press Ltd.
With this ‘Council reporter ratings publication’, the ODT did not just ‘interfere in any way with any person who is about to vote’, the publication interfered in many ways with thousands of people who were about to vote, significantly altering the voting outcomes of the election. This on top of more subtle ODT bias in headlines, omissions, and comment regarding Council issues in the year leading up to the election.

I highlighted two such recent examples in my letter to the Editor of 22nd/9/2013 as follows;

From: Lee Vandervis
Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2013 12:01:03 +1200
To: EditorODT, Nicholas George S Smith [Allied Press], Julian Smith [Allied Press]
Cc: Chris Morris [ODT]
Conversation: A reporter’s ranting ratings! – Letter to the Editor
Subject: A reporter’s ranting ratings! – Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor.

A reporter’s ranting ratings! – on voting-papers-weekend!

Dear Editor,

With two pages of a reporter’s ranting ratings! on Councillors, the ODT has emotively screwed with voter preferences just as their voting papers arrive.
For the Mayoralty the ODT has again backed a TV-show-pony instead of a work-horse.

Where was Saturday’s headline ‘Cull falsely claims saving ratepayers $100+ million’ when the ODT knows he tried costing us that $100+ million in 2012 to disguise a double digit rates-rise?*
Where is the headline ‘Imaginative and informative election posters from Vandervis’? [photo here – see attached].

You have helped buy a Stadium that we can not pay for, neither capital nor operational, and failed the only candidate that told you so and still might have been able to pay for both.
You are sending our new CEO saviour in search of a saner situation.
You have, in this most important ODT issue of the triennium, taken the Dunedin disease of savaging style over substance to new debilitating depths.
You have permanently compromised any perceived impartiality of your primary DCC reporter, and warned off any decent future DCC candidates.

Winchell’s fate awaits you.

Cr. Clydesdale Vandervis

[“Walter Winchell – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Winchell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Winchell
You know what Winchell was doing at the end? Typing out mimeographed sheets with his column, handing them out on the corner. That’s how sad he got.”]

● “Mayor Dave Cull said he was “vehemently opposed” to repaying the debt over 40 years, because of the interest it would add to the bill, but would support it in the meantime to keep rates down.” [ODT 26 Jan 2012]

image.jpg

Feedback following the Councillor ratings publication was so severe from many different people that I decided to cancel all further advertising with the ODT on 29th Sept., 10 days before the close of voting as below.

From: Lee Vandervis
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2013 23:07:22 +1300
To: Esther Lamb [Allied Press]
Cc: Nicholas George S Smith [Allied Press], Julian Smith [Allied Press]
Conversation: Lee Vandervis
Subject: Re: Lee Vandervis

Hi Esther,

Thank you for looking after me personally, but your Editors and Morris have undone any good there might have been in our ODT advertising by the obscene Sept 21st 2 pages of ‘Councillor ratings’ in which I have been slandered and Mayor Cull has been rolled in glitter.
Please cancel any further ads and send me a final account.

Kind regards,
Lee

4 Links to the ODT 21/9/2013 Councillor rating publication appear below;
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzAwMA==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzAxNw==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzEwNA==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzEwMw==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english

I ask that you investigate this complaint, and if you discover that section 122 of the Local Electoral Act or other section has in fact been breached, that you move to appropriately censure the ODT in such a way as to publicly highlight the breach, and especially to prevent this or any other newspaper doing this to Candidates in future elections. The ODT has responded to comment on its Ratings of Candidates publication by saying that it will consider including Regional Council and Hospital Board Candidates in a similar Ratings publication for future elections.
The already too powerful influence of Allied Press’ monopoly print and TV media in Dunedin has become so extreme with this ODT Councillor Ratings paper coinciding with delivery of voting papers, that the outcome of the electoral process effectively rides on the shirt-tails of ODT published opinion.

Looking forward to your response,

Kind regards,
Cr. Lee Vandervis

—— End of Forwarded Message

[ends]

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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