The Dunedin city councillor at the centre of allegations of abusive behaviour towards staff says he makes "no apology'' for his actions.

Instead, Lee Vandervis claims he is the victim of a "premeditated" smear campaign, just weeks out from local body elections in October.

Vandervis was commenting on social media after the Otago Daily Times reported yesterday he had been the subject of 11 complaints by staff or members of the public so far this term.

The complaints came from men and women, and alleged angry, verbally abusive, threatening or intimidating behaviour.


Vandervis has repeatedly ignored ODT requests for comment on the issue since allegations first emerged in May. He yesterday took to Facebook to complain about "unbalanced" coverage.

He said it was "a shame" he was "the only councillor brave enough to raise issues" of council "dysfunction", "but I see raising issues as my job on behalf of our citizens".

"Of course, some of our 1200 DCC staff have complained of my years of raising issues, and of my direct manner, but 11 unsubstantiated staff complaints made with no evidence or investigation confirmed just before the election seems premeditated."

He also hit back at suggestions he had a propensity to target females, saying that was "easy to understand, once you know that there is no gender balance in DCC governance staff - they are all women".

"I have no choice but to raise issues with, and make information requests to, women."

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose, contacted yesterday, said most of the 12 complaints could be considered "substantiated" in that they were witnessed by more than one other person, either in person or in email chains.

Only complaints involving a one-on-one exchange - of which there were four on the list made public - could be considered "unsubstantiated", as no other person witnessed them, she said.

The complaints were logged on the DCC's health and safety register, to manage risks to staff.


In all cases, a senior manager has spoken with the staff member concerned about the incidents raised, and in some - involving email exchanges - the councillor involved had received an email response "outlining how their behaviour was unacceptable".

On another occasion, the councillor concerned was spoken to about his behaviour at the time of an incident, which occurred when a senior staff member was present along with other councillors and members of the public.

When exchanges were one-on-one, staff requested no action "but simply wanted the event noted", she said.

The ODT first asked for information about complaints against Vandervis in May, after emails surfaced showing Mayor Dave Cull had accused him of bullying and verbally abusive behaviour, particularly towards females.

The request was rejected by the council in June, citing Vandervis' right to privacy, and the councillor himself did not respond when asked to waive that right.

The council's decision was appealed to the Office of the Ombudsmen, which is still considering the issue, but in the meantime, the ODT asked for a list of all complaints against all councillors in the 2016-19 term.

That information was released on Friday.