Marryatt may refuse $68,000 rise
Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt says he could "change my mind" on whether to keep his $68,000 pay rise, depending on the outcome of a meeting between councillors and a Cabinet minister.
Marryatt said yesterday he had not ruled out turning down the controversial 14.4 per cent salary increase, in an apparent reversal of previous comments made to The Press.
The council's decision to award Marryatt the pay rise has attracted widespread criticism since it was announced last month.
A group of residents opposed to the increase has organised a February 1 protest at the council's Hereford St offices to voice its concerns.
In an interview with The Press this month, Marryatt said he would not turn down the pay rise.
"I am not refusing the pay offer and I am not giving it to charity,'' he said.
"That is on the principle that I feel I should be paid the market remuneration for the job and what is appropriate for my level of performance. That is how I treat people in this organisation and that has been my philosophy in 30 years."
However, Marryatt said yesterday he had not ruled out giving the increase back to the council and was "interested in the outcome" of a meeting between city councillors and Local Government Minister Nick Smith tomorrow afternoon.
"It's obviously something that's always at the front of my mind; it's still at the front of my mind," he said.
"It's still something that I'm considering, but I'm interested in the outcome of Friday's meeting."
Asked whether the position was a reversal of his previous stance, Marryatt said that "nothing has changed".
"What I said to [The Press] still stands unless I change my mind, and I could change my mind," he said.
"To say it's a possibility is one step too far, but I am always considering my position, and I am interested in the outcome of Friday's meeting."
Marryatt's comments came as the council confirmed it would release information provided to councillors before the vote on his pay rise.
After the salary increase was announced, Mayor Bob Parker said the council had sought "external professional help" to determine the appropriate salary for Marryatt's position.
Yesterday, Parker said the information would be released to the public "as soon as possible" so they could see how the pay rise had been set.
"We are going to put all this stuff out to people and let them have a chance to read through it so they can understand the rationale for [the increase]," he said.
The documents would include the external salary advice and could include Marryatt's performance review, depending on whether issues over confidential comments included in the document could be resolved.
"We want to show as much of the process as is possible. We want to put it all out there," Parker said.
Marryatt said the information would be released to the media tomorrow.
Parker has described the handling of the increase as politically "inept" and conceded that the council failed to consider the feelings of earthquake-hit residents.
TOP JOB 'LIKE WINNING LOTTO'
Getting a top local government job is now like winning a Lotto jackpot, says a Christchurch MP and former city councillor.
New Zealand First list MP Denis O'Rourke is considering a private member's bill to stop local government chief executives getting big pay rises.
The backlash follows a $68,000 salary increase for Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt and a $44,000 rise for his Kapiti District Council counterpart.
O'Rourke said being appointed to a top council job in some areas was "now like winning a Lotto jackpot" and councillors should show more responsibility with public money.
The public service role in local government had been forgotten, and some council bosses were "pocketing millions of dollars at ratepayers' expense".
O'Rourke wants a law change that calls for any pay rise to be fair to the person and to ratepayers.
Councils would have to take into account any special circumstances that applied to the city or district.
PROTEST SEEN AS WIDER THAN PAY ISSUE
A protest against a $68,000 pay rise for Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt will be held even if the money is returned, organisers say.
A group opposed to the increase, No Pay Rise for Tony Marryatt, has organised a protest at the council's Hereford St offices next Wednesday.
Protest organiser Peter Lynch said his "gut feeling" was that Smith would encourage Marryatt to reject the pay increase and return the money to the council.
"They have to do something. The pressure's enormous, and they probably think that if they drop the issue it will defuse everything and the residents will go away."
The rally would still proceed if the money was returned as the increase had been a "catalyst" for wider concerns about the council's performance.
"We have much bigger issues to address, such as the dysfunctionality of the council, and the poor decisions it has been making," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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