Mayor withdraws support for Marryatt

Last updated 05:00 04/07/2013
Parker and Marryatt
THE WAY THEY WERE: Mayor Bob Parker and chief executive Tony Marryatt leave the Cera building after speaking with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee on June 14.

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Controversial Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt has lost his closest ally as his career hangs in the balance, with Mayor Bob Parker no longer willing to defend his chief executive.

Marryatt was placed on indefinite paid leave yesterday amid mounting questions about his role in the council's consenting crisis and accusations that he kept crucial information from the mayor and councillors.

Opinion: Bitter end to the Bob and Tony Show?

Editorial: Council finally faces the music

Parker, Marryatt's greatest champion at the council table and the man who labelled him ''one of the most outstanding chief executives that I have ever worked with'', yesterday distanced himself from his old workmate.

''What we are discovering is that apparently significant pieces of information crucial to this organisation functioning in the way that we expect it to function do not seem to have reached the governance team. That's an appalling situation to find yourself in as a governance body and that's why we have taken immediate action,'' Parker said during a press conference yesterday.

Marryatt told The Press he could not speak about his employment situation because he was in discussions with the council.

''I'm not in a position to comment until those discussions are concluded,'' he said, indicating that he would have more to say later.

A woman who answered the door at his house said the reason he could not comment was because ''basically he is being gagged by the council and the mayor''.

Parker, who has stood by Marryatt through several high-profile controversies and repeatedly praised his leadership of the council, said the information that had come to light in recent days about the depth of the council's consenting crisis had undermined elected members' confidence in their chief executive.

''A governance body cannot function in the absence of accurate and timely information,'' he said.

''In the last few days we've got information that we didn't have before and I'm embarrassed to say that I stepped out in front of my community believing I had the most detailed, accurate and up-to-date information that I could have on this [consenting] issue, only to discover that was not the case. That concerns me deeply.''

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Parker said the shortcomings in the information provided to councillors about the consenting crisis raised questions on other issues about which the councillors might have been kept in the dark.

No disciplinary action had been instigated against Marryatt at this point, but a full investigation is being conducted before any decision on his future.

Once the results of those investigations were known a decision would be made on Marryatt's future with the organisation.

Parker said he had spoken to Marryatt, who was ''naturally feeling incredibly disappointed'' by the situation he now found himself in. ''He's worked very hard for this organisation. It's a very difficult situation for him.''

Parker ruled out any suggestion that his head should also roll.

''We take responsibility for the things we were aware of. It's very hard to take responsibility for the things we weren't told about. I'm not intending to step down. I'm intending to resolve this issue,'' he said.

Today, councillors will hold an extraordinary meeting at which they are expected to vote to formally ask Local Government Minister Chris Tremain to appoint a Crown manager to oversee the council's consents department. 

That would allow the council to continue issuing consents while it  makes the changes necessary to win back its accreditation.

The move was welcomed by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

''I am pleased that Christchurch City Council has recognised the gravity of the situation and that a motion will now be put to the council to invite the Government to appoint a Crown manager. This decision will ensure they get a robust consenting system in place, and is a constructive and welcome step forward,''  he said.

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman and Christchurch mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel said Parker had done the right thing by asking the Crown to be involved.

She said that while Parker had spoken reassuring words to people last week about the consents, it was now time for the truth.

''I'm afraid this isn't the time for reassuring words. This is the time for the truth. Everything now must be out in the open,'' she said.


November 2012: Parker backed Marryatt's decision to grant staff extra paid leave, after the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce asked for a full inquiry. "I think it is a wise, sensible decision that doesn't cost us cash and will actually increase productivity beyond any time staff take off."

January 2012: Parker defended Marryatt's pay rise and suggested Christchurch people cease the "non-stop cycle of criticism through the media of the CEO [Marryatt]". In a report recommending the increase, Parker claimed Marryatt had "stepped up" since the earthquakes, while his defenders around the council table cited his "amazing" performance reviews as justification.

June 2011: Parker told Christchurch City councillors he would consider resigning as mayor if Marryatt was not reappointed as council boss.

May 2011: Parker said he was happy with Marryatt's time in the role, because "he is one of the most outstanding chief executives that I have ever worked with".

October 2009: Parker describes Marryatt as "clearly a very high-performing chief executive".


Marryatt's employment

Chief executive Tony Marryatt is on indefinite paid leave while his role in the council consenting crisis is investigated. Mayor Bob Parker says "significant pieces of information" have been withheld from councillors. Marryatt's future is unclear until the investigation is complete, but it could go as far as a serious misconduct employment case.

Who's in charge?

Councillors are expected to ask the Government to appoint a Crown manager to oversee the council's consents department at an extraordinary meeting today. That person, a default boss, will have the power to make changes and will allow the council to keep issuing consents.

Council city environment general manager Jane Parfitt will step in as acting chief executive. She has been chief executive of the Waimakariri District Council and has governance experience in the health and transport sectors.

The consenting department

Government officials are auditing consents recently granted by the council amid fears they might be deficient.

The Insurance Council believes some newly constructed buildings might have to be pulled down because of faulty consents. Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson thinks that is "highly unlikely", but has ordered checks anyway.

What they're saying

Marryatt has been gagged and is seeking legal advice, but has hinted he might talk.

Parker has lamented the "appalling situation" and admitted he was "embarrassed" to have fronted media believing he had all the facts on consent problems. His tone is a far cry from previous unwavering support for his chief executive.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, a vocal critic of council processes, has welcomed the move and the council's acknowledgement of the "gravity of the situation".

Mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel said Parker had made the right call in asking for a Crown manager, and has called for any other consents secrets to be exposed.

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- The Press

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