Witt staff no wiser for council responses

16:00, Feb 04 2013

An urgent meeting between Witt staff and the council did little to explain the impending departure of the Witt chief executive, a staff member says.

Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki council chairwoman Mary Bourke said staff requested a meeting with the council yesterday to ask questions.

The meeting was in response to the council rejecting chief executive Richard Handley's plea to extend his contract by two years.

The 4pm meeting, held at Witt, was closed to the media and staff were under strict orders not to speak to the press.

A Witt staff member, who spoke to the Taranaki Daily News on condition of anonymity, said about 50 staff turned out at the meeting.

"We tried to keep the heat out of it but some of the staff are quite upset and emotional about it."


Seven out of the eight council members were present. Mr Handley was not.

The council had been provided with a list of questions before the meeting.

But the council's responses did little to shed light on the situation, the anonymous staff member said.

There had been talk among staff of a vote of no confidence in the council.

"Some of the staff feel very strongly about it but we have to talk to all the staff."

There was frustration that Mr Handley was not having his contract renewed when Witt was in the best position it had been for a long time.

"We're finally getting our head above ground and we're getting respect from the community, we can't understand why the council would put us at risk again."

On Saturday the Taranaki Daily News exposed tension between the Witt council and Witt senior management.

The Daily News obtained a list of questions which were to be asked at yesterday's meeting.

They included questions about the council's strategic direction, when the council intended seeking advice from Witt's academic board, and whether the council felt it was prudent to bear the costs of recruiting a new chief executive this year.

Questions were also asked about Miss Bourke and Mr Handley's relationship.

The council would give written answers to staff this week and staff would meet on Thursday "to let people digest what was said today", the staff member said.

Taranaki Daily News