Marryatt bounces back to insurer

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014
Tony Marryatt
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

CONTROVERSIAL: Former Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt.

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Former Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt has raised eyebrows after quitting then being immediately reappointed chairman of the council's main insurer.

The Press understands Marryatt resigned from the Civic Assurance board as part of his exit deal with the council.

One source said that condition was "the tipping point" that convinced councillors to agree to the confidential agreement.

But while Marryatt resigned from the Civic board on November 8 last year, he confirmed yesterday he was reappointed to the same role at the same meeting, held three weeks before he officially finished at the council.

He rejoined the board "because I was asked to and also because I don't like leaving a job half done".

That move was "extraordinary", according to former councillor Helen Broughton, while former Mayor Garry Moore said the council should engage "some pretty seriously qualified legal advice" over Marryatt's reappointment.

Christchurch employment lawyer Tim McGinn said it was not an uncommon move.

"It is not an uncommon situation that a resignation is forced by circumstances and then is overcome by a reappointment. It makes a bit of a joke of the effect of the requirement to resign but it wasn't the Civic Assurance people that were requiring him to resign."

The previous council demanded an Auditor-General report after some councillors saw his dual roles created potential for a conflict of interest. That probe cleared Marryatt of any wrong-doing.

But Broughton was worried he could "come to the negotiating table with some pretty negative feelings".

"I find that extraordinary. I just can't believe it. My personal view is that Christchurch will not be best served in insurance negotiations by Mr Marryatt remaining in this position."

Moore said if he was still on the council, he would be insisting "through the courts" that Marryatt was removed from the Civic board.

In his first public comments to The Press since he was placed on leave at the council in early July, Marryatt confirmed that, under its "fit and proper policy" the board resolved to co-opt him.

His term expires on June 30 this year. The minutes of the meeting, when Marryatt was not present, said "there was wide ranging discussion on Mr Marryatt's performance, contribution to the company's affairs, dealings with the Reserve Bank, expertise, the mix of skills within the board, independence and importantly the need for continuity as the company approaches the arbitration proceedings with the reinsurers".

Marryatt said the Civic board was not involved in settlements reached for each individual claims and "any negotiations with (Christchurch City) council on individual claims are held by assessors appointed by Civic and Civic staff".

Acting council chief executive Jane Parfitt confirmed she was contacted by Civic chief executive Tim Sole about Marryatt's reappointment.

While she was not surprised Marryatt - "a very astute person who understands figures very well" - was back, she questioned why it required a telephone call.

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"I was a bit surprised to get that call, why bother ringing?"

Parfitt said she could not make any further comment.

- The Press

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