Roger Sutton resigns with regrets

David Walker

Roger Sutton has resigned as chief executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton has bowed out, apologising, promising to reform and looking forward to a rest and time with his family.

Against the backdrop of a broken but rebuilding city, Sutton yesterday announced his resignation from Cera, where he has been a popular leader for the past 3 1/2 years.

It was an emotional press conference but it was still the Sutton the public had come to know as the friendly face of power.

Joseph Johnson Joseph Johnson Joseph Johnson Joseph Johnson Dean Kozanic Dean Kozanic John Kirk-Anderson Joseph Johnson Stacy Squires Iain McGregor Joseph Johnson John Kirk-Anderson Kirk Hargreaves Supplied

Roger Sutton resigns as Cera chief executive.

Jo Malcolm answers media questions after her husband Roger Sutton quits as Cera chief executive.

Jo Malcolm is given a hug after her husband Roger Sutton quits as Cera chief executive.

Cera chief executive Roger Sutton walks into a press conference to announce his resignation, holding wife Jo Malcolm's hand. Iain Rennie, State Services Commissioner, is behind.

Roger Sutton, Cera chief executive, in June 2014.

Roger Sutton took part in a head-shave cancer fundraiser in March 2014.

Roger Sutton with John Key in August 2014 at the announcement over Christchurch's new convention centre.

Roger Sutton and Karleen Edwards, Christchurch City Council chief executive, test a newly opened Port Hills bike path in June 2014.

Roger Sutton in January 2014 discussing red zone settlements.

Prince Charles with Roger Sutton in November 2012.

Roger Sutton says Italian engineers see building code improvements as a burden and expensive to implement.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee walks through the central city red zone with Cera chief executive Roger Sutton in July 2011.

Orion chief executive Roger Sutton in May 2004.

Roger Sutton in February 2002 when he was newly appointed chief executive of Orion.

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said Sutton's conduct towards one complainant staff member had been investigated and found Sutton "did not always meet the standard expected of public service leaders". The report did not recommend dismissal.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said he was disappointed by the events that led to Sutton's resignation but acknowledged his contribution.

With wife Jo Malcolm sitting close by, Sutton said he was leaving by his own free choice.

"Hugs, jokes ... I do do those things. I have hurt somebody and I'm very, very sorry about that. I may also have offended other women through my actions and I'm really sorry to them as well.

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"I've never meant any harm. I've worked my guts out for the last 3 1/2 years to try and support people in this community. I'm very upset I have hurt people.

"I am who I am. I've called women 'honey' and 'sweetie' and that is wrong. That is a sexist thing to do and I'll stop doing that."

It was time for a change and the past eight weeks had been the last straw, he said.

"Now just feels like the right time.

"This is a hard job and needs someone to give it 100 per cent. I'm too exhausted to give it 100 per cent."

Sutton said he would have left anyway, probably later next year.

"I've done lots and lots in this job but I haven't done enough with my family ... my wife is bringing up our children alone at the moment."

He was seeing a psychologist and confronting his behaviour.

"I'm not a victim. I take responsibility. I'm really determined out of this I will become a better person. I'll tell fewer inappropriate jokes. If I see others behaving inappropriately, I will be on to them much more quickly because I know what it's like when you cross the line and hurt people.

"I've been in the dock and I don't think many senior people like me know what that's like. It's been difficult but an experience I've learned from and become a better leader."

He was most proud, he said, of creating an organisation out of nothing and recruiting people "who are passionate and care and share my values".

He was proud of Cera's residential zoning work and a "gutsy, inspirational" blueprint for the city.

Malcolm said after the press conference she was "just so, so proud" of her husband.

"It's been hideous. He is a really good man. Why his hugs and jokes have been misinterpreted, I have no idea. He's a touchy-feely person."

Sutton could be silly, she said.

"That's what I love about him and he forgot he is the leader of the public service and he's too informal, he's too relaxed. That's who he is, and that what makes him who is and why the Cera staff ove him – the majority of them do – and I think it's really sad for Christchurch."

While Malcolm said she was an advocate for both women and men being safe in the workplace, she wished the process could have been less public.

"I actually want him to go. I want him to be with us. I've been raising our boys by myself."

When asked about Sutton's pay, the State Services Commission said: "We've reached an acceptable outcome that acknowledges Roger's early resignation. It is consistent with his entitlements under his contract."


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