Witt spent more than $50,000 on legal fees surrounding the controversial decision to not reinstate chief executive Richard Handley.
In a document released to the Taranaki Daily News yesterday under the Official Information Act, it was revealed that the polytechnic spent $130,691 on legal and consultancy fees this year.
The Witt council paid $54,235 for legal advice about Mr Handley and his employment.
In January this year his request to have his five-year contract extended for two years was denied by the Witt council. The unanimous council decision was criticised by staff and Taranaki business and industry leaders.
In April Mr Handley resigned from his position and left the polytechnic 14 weeks before his term was due to end.
Witt council chairperson Mary Bourke said most of the legal and consultancy costs occurred after the decision to not extend his contract was made.
"This period was sadly characterised by unhelpful public criticism and actions by a small number of staff who did not agree with the collective council decision.
"This short period involved regular negative media coverage, often involving the selective leaking of information to the media.
"Witt considered it prudent and necessary to seek appropriate and sound professional advice," she said. In the same document it was revealed the polytechnic spent $33,042 on legal and consultancy advice concerning a further former employee, Lisa Bushell.
The human resources manager resigned in April, claiming she had "concerns" over the way the polytech's council had treated staff.
She left the institute the same day as Mr Handley.
Ms Bourke said ordinarily Witt would use in-house resources to deal with employment issues.
"Because these involved the now former CEO and the HR manager, that option was not available."
She said the $130,691 had been spent to ensure the institute was meeting the requirements of New Zealand employment law.
"The appropriate professional advice and support is very important to maintain the integrity of actions taken by Witt," she said.
Witt would not comment on any exit packages.
The Daily News understands further legal action could be taken by Witt against Lisa Bushell later this year.
When asked about the ongoing situation Ms Bourke said she did not know about any future legal action or costs.
She said she hoped further legal action would not happen.
Witt has spent $130,691* on legal and consultancy fees this year.
What budgets were used?
$69,964 – Witt council
$35,442 – Chief executive
$11,536 – Finance
$13,749 – "Other cost centres"
Who was paid?
$57,523 – Fore Consultancy
$23,393 – Buddle Findlay
* GST excluded.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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