Tony Marryatt's 'divisive culture'

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 20/09/2013

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Red flags about some aspects of the performance of departing Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt were raised seven months ago but not all councillors were told.

A independent ratepayer-funded report was followed four months later with a second report that put Marryatt's performance in a more positive light.

Marryatt resigned this month after accepting responsibility for the handling of the council's consenting crisis.

An initial performance report suggested Marryatt had created a divisive culture and created some "unwelcome surprises" for councillors. The February 2013 document was written by a Wellington-based human resources firm. It suggested he needed a "political minder" and had to improve his communication with councillors.

It said: "It is felt that he (Marryatt) does things without authorisation, which leads to unwelcome surprises as well as a feeling of inequality across the councillors."

It also noted positive attributes, including strong financial acumen and ability to make high-quality recommendations.

The report contained the view: "He wants to do what is best for the city."

The report was asked for by the four-member chief executive sub-committee, chaired by Mayor Bob Parker and made up of Crs Sue Wells, Peter Beck and Helen Broughton, who later resigned, angry all councillors were denied full access to both reports.

The sub-committee oversees Marryatt's performance and has the power to recommend pay rises. Marryatt was the highest paid local government chief executive in the country, pulling in a $538,529 package annually.

The sub-committee asked for the report to help guide them on how Marryatt was faring in the role, whether he needed fresh key performance indicators and if his performance justified a pay rise. The June report recommended no pay rise, something it said Marryatt supported.

The February report recommended several "priority development areas".

Engage stakeholders and in particular, listen more: "It doesn't mean he has to do the frivolous side of this such as kissing babies but he does need to extend his profile and listen more to the needs of the community."

Communicate: "Early and often with no surprises. Be seen not to try and control information and not to withhold it from some or all of the councillors."

Manage political risk: "Put in place a political minder . . . to get (his) political radar flashing a bit more strongly than it has been."

Councillor support and information: "Put in place a small office to look after the needs of all councillors and shower them with information."

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It also included remarks from the council's executive team, which were mainly favourable and elected councillors, who gave a mixed response to how Marryatt was faring.

Parker, Wells, Beck and Broughton were reluctant to comment, citing sensitivity and confidentiality around a private employee-employer matter.

Parker said: "Mr Marryatt is an employee of the CCC and I must respect that employment law relationship."

Parker, Wells and Beck are standing down at October's local body elections while Broughton is seeking re-election. The council and Marryatt agreed to a $269,000 settlement package which will see Marryatt leave his role on November 30. He continues to receive full pay until then.

Broughton said "normal practice" was for any independent report to be tabled and debated by the full council. This never happened, she said.

- Fairfax Media

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