ChCh mayor 'threatened to quit'

PAUL GORMAN
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2011
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QUIT THREAT: Christchurch city council chief executive Tony Marryatt, left, and city Mayor Bob Parker.

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Bob Parker told Christchurch City councillors he would consider resigning as mayor if Tony Marryatt was not reappointed as council boss, sources say.

At a behind-closed-doors meeting of the chief executive's reappointment subcommittee last week, Parker said unless Marryatt remained, he would rethink his future, it was claimed.

At a public-excluded session of the full council recently, Parker also astounded some councillors by asking each one if they supported Marryatt, the sources said.

Parker's recent comment that Marryatt was "one of the most outstanding chief executives that I have ever worked with" had been called "very unwise" by an employment lawyer.

The lawyer said that could lead to a legal challenge from unsuccessful applicants.

The city council decided unanimously last month to advertise the chief executive job for a five-year term from next May, and voted 10-4 in favour of including that Marryatt was reapplying for the job in the advertisement.

Parker would yesterday neither confirm nor deny his comments. "Both of those were [public] excluded meetings. With issues around employment, obviously that is terribly sensitive.

"We have a process that we don't comment on anything that is said in those meetings. There's a principle around that. But some people, it seems, don't follow that.

"I have no intention of resigning. I love my job. I have signed up for a three-year term with the community."

The appointment process is also at the centre of a letter from Christchurch business leaders to Parker and councillors, in what the business group said might appear to be "an exceptional intervention".

The letter from the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and the Canterbury Business Leaders Group was sent in modified form yesterday after the original was leaked to the mayor's office on Monday night.

Signed by Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder, for the business leaders, and chamber chief executive Peter Townsend, the letter said the council chief executive was "critical" to the post-quake future of Christchurch and the role would be "broader than required in the past and at an exceptional level".

"The relationship with business leaders in particular must be with us as partner investors in the future of our city, not just as another group of ratepayers. We are sure as councillors you will agree with us on this.

"We respectfully request that you, as elected representatives of the people of Christchurch, take the time to review the CEO appointment process very carefully."

Emails leaked to The Press show Parker was angry about the letter when he received the original copy and asked the authors not to send it.

On Tuesday afternoon, Elder said in an email: "Not surprisingly, our letter was leaked last night to Bob Parker. By the time I woke this morning, I had six or seven missed calls from him.

"Bob and I spoke for about an hour. I think it was, in the end, as good a discussion as could be expected. Bob expressed strong concerns about our letter and the damage it would do assuming it was leaked to the media. He said it would only do damage by undermining their process, which he said was completely as it should be and in accordance with the Local Government Act.

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"I explained that this letter was perhaps the mildest of the many views that had been expressed and if we did not send this letter we might anticipate two things happening – first, a headline something like `Mayor silences business group', which we both agreed would be in no-one's interest, and second, he and councillors would be likely to receive a range of much stronger and less measured or constructive correspondence and messages, either directly or through the media."

An email from chamber president Peter Davie, the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch chief executive, the same day said: "I had a very heated call from the mayor this morning."

Parker said yesterday his annoyance had eased when he realised the business groups and he had the same aim.

"We're looking for a good process and the best outcome for the city."

>> Read the text of the letter here.

- The Press

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