Council chief defends manager

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
tdn cathy stand'
JONATHAN CAMERON
NPDC General Manager Customer services Cathy Thurston

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Council boss Barbara McKerrow has broken her silence on three top-level resignations and sprung to the defence of community services general manager Cathy Thurston.

The matter came to a head yesterday when Waitara councillor Sherril George commented on it in a letter to the Taranaki Daily News. She wrote a "small person with a big ego" was the common thread in the New Plymouth District Council resignations.

Mrs McKerrow said the letter was a clear attack on Ms Thurston and in breach of the councillors' code of conduct, which prevents them from publicly criticising council employees.

"I recognise there is speculation which has been going on for some time. There are a lot of things out there that I cannot refute without breaching confidentiality.

"But in this instance, in what is clearly an attack against Cathy Thurston, I refute it completely," Mrs McKerrow said.

Yesterday the chief executive expressed full confidence in Ms Thurston, who is responsible for about half of the council's 500 staff and said she was a "well regarded member of our organisation".

Citing their right to privacy, Mrs McKerrow would not comment on details of the resignations of Puke Ariki boss Fiona Emberton and events manager Brent Thawley, who both worked under Ms Thurston, or corporate strategy manager Maureen Crombie.

Ms George refused to accept she had breached the code and said she had written the letter only because other councillors had tried to get answers and were told it was "none of their business".

"Transparency is the most important thing. If we had been told right at the beginning why these people had left, in confidentiality, in a private meeting, I would have been happy with that."

Ms George said she had spoken to two of the three staff who had resigned.

Ms Emberton resigned in November after at least one month on sick leave and just 15 months in the job. Mr Thawley resigned last week, also after a period of sick leave, to take up a position in Wellington.

It is not known why Ms Crombie quit late last year but she is understood to have resigned and left the council on the same day.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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