There’s nothing like a cock fight

 

Two roosters in the henhouse is always going to provide a bit of pre Christmas entertainment. And so it was with the last Dunedin City Council meeting for 2015. A fitting finale to an awful lot of clucking, puffing and ‘sky is falling’ from this Council this year. The issue on the table this time was the drafting of the Council’s new Procurement Procedures Manual. Cr Vandervis was persistently requesting assurance that the Manual would prevent in future the sort of skullduggery from Council Managers that he had experienced as a former contracted supplier to the Council; that is, specifically, the need to ‘cosy up’ to the manager and slip him/her a back-hander to get a contract. Cr Vandervis was seeking assurance from the presenter of the draft document that a procurement manager who would be put in place to provide accountability for the actions of individual managers who were putting tenders out to contract. He wanted a timeline for this appointment and he was refusing to be fobbed off by the bureaucrat-speak with which he was being fobbed off.

That was the signal of a cock fight challenge for the mayor (with a small m) who halted proceedings while he gathered himself for the response and was immediately comforted by a couple of black hens who clearly steeled him for his bout. Suitably prepared he then indignantly announced that Cr Vandervis could not make such allegations in council without evidence. The mayor’s indignation might have had a tad more substance had it not been that a Council Manager had been caught last year selling off, and pocketing the proceeds of, 150 odd cars from the Council fleet over a long number of years. A scandal that saw the manager involved take his own life and 5 council staff including three senior managers resign for failure in their duties of diligence and also saw the Council pay $1.5m for the forensic audit of the scandal. An impartial observer would think that Cr Vandervis had substantial cause to put the structure of the Procurement Procedures Manual under the microscope in respect to its ability to address historical problems in avoiding Council staff impropriety.

Cr Vandervis then reminded the mayor that he had presented the evidence, privately to him directly and to two different Council CEO’s, of his own personal experience in paying a back-hander to a Council manager in the past to win a council contract. Since this would also involve Cr Vandervis as a party to an illegal action, one would assume it is not an allegation he would make lightly.

Silkie bantom rooster

Silkie bantam rooster

At this suggestion that he had prior knowledge and evidence of the allegation, the little bantam mayor leaped up with puffed feathers and ordered Cr Vandervis from the meeting (again). And followed it up with the dramatic “you, sir, are a liar” which he must have picked up from a re-run of an old, B grade black&white movie.

 

 

Aseel fighting cock

Aseel fighting cock

Cr Vandervis purposefully gathered his papers and walked from the meeting with a self-assured strut that left the hens, who were all watching proceedings furtively, with no doubt that he would return to fight another day. The mayor observed the departure with a very subdued and unconvincing crowing; even he could see the cock-fight was far from over.

But the entertainment value aside, once again the mayor demonstrated deplorable chairmanship skills in failing to manage an outspoken member of Council. Once again he abused his authority by resorting to evicting Cr Vandervis from the meeting of elected Councillors, thereby denying the rights of those ratepayers who elected Cr Vandervis to represent their views. This was little more than an admission that he could not match Cr Vandervis in a debating chamber and made the mayor look very weak.

It was not really a difficult situation for an experienced Chairman. The mayor needed only to state that proposing and discussing such verbal allegations as fraud in a public forum would put the Councillor and the Council at risk of legal consequences and request that Cr Vandervis should put his allegation formally, in writing, to the Chief Executive, along with his evidence, to be properly investigated. The mayor could then assure the Councillor that once documented in Council minutes there is a paper trail for the process now that will prevent any further ‘I said/he said’ allegations on the issue raised.

This leaping to his little bantam feet and dramatically evicting an elected Councillor from the Council debating chamber really has to stop.

 

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