Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has paid $50,000 to fellow councillor Lee Vandervis to settle a defamation claim filed against him in July of last year, although he did not offer a public apology.
At a council meeting in December 2016, Cr Vandervis claimed that there were issues with underhanded bribes and payback in the DCC tendering process. He claimed that in the 1980s, while working as a lighting and sound fitter, he had regularly paid a 10 percent backhander or bribe to win council contracts, and said he thought the shady dealings may still be ongoing today. Mayor Cull took exception to the claim, and instructed Cr Vandervis to leave the chamber, citing “repeated false statements”.
Vandervis insisted that he had presented evidence of the bribes, which Dave Cull denied. Vandervis believes that his personal testimony is “as good evidence as you can get”, and claims this is not the first time Cull has called him a liar, but was the first time in public. Cull then doubled down on the claim, saying “a liar is a liar”. According to Vandervis “Liar is the one word you know to never use in politics. It seems Mr Cull just hasn’t learned”.
It was not the first time the two have clashed, during the last election Cull called Cr Vandervis “shonky”, which was eventually resolved with mediation and an apology issued.
Vandervis was seeking $250,000 in general damages and another $250,000 in exemplary damages, plus costs from Mr Cull. Soon after he filed the claim, he told Critic that he would still have been willing to drop the claim if he were to receive a public apology and payment of his legal fees.