Is it too hard to sack?

November 20, 2014

How serious is serious misconduct if it’s not a sackable offence?

This is just one of several questions raised by the behaviour of Roger Sutton who resigned as chief of the Canterbury Recovery Authority (CERA).

Another is why was he given the opportunity to speak at the media conference announcing his resignation and which led him to breach the confidentiality agreement?

He used that opportunity to say he’d called women honey and sweetie and he apologised for that which left many saying this was PC gone mad.

Such endearments are not appropriate in a professional working environment but they’re hardly a sacking offence.

However, it’s become clear since then that there was a great deal more to the complaint of sexual harassment, which was upheld after a seven week investigation, than a few honeys and sweeties.

Not surprisingly the victim is upset:

The woman who made a sexual harassment complaint against Cera chief executive Roger Sutton is “torn up” and upset he has been able to foster public sympathy.

The victim has been told by State Services Commission (SSC) lawyers not to speak publicly about the case. She has repeatedly declined to comment when approached by Press. . .

He said his piece, at a media conference, but she is abiding by the confidentiality agreement.

Will there be any consequence for his breach?

Equal Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue is questioning the processes used by CERA and the SSC:

Dr Blue says the public vilification of the woman who made the allegations could have “a chilling effect on future complaints.”

She questioned why Mr Sutton was allowed to go public.

“We’ve heard one side of the story, or one side has minimised the issue,” Ms Blue told media.

“Where’s the woman’s voice in this? What sort of support is she getting? And what’s it going to do for people who are thinking about complaining about complaining are concerned they may be undergoing sexual harassment in the workplace.” . .

What is it going to do for anyone thinking about complaining about any harassment or other misconduct at work?

What would have happened had Sutton not resigned?

How serious is serious when it’s not sackable?

And if it’s serious but not sackable is it too hard to sack?


Sutton resigns as CERA CEO

November 17, 2014

Services Commissioner Iain Rennie  has confirmed Roger Sutton has chosen to resign as Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

The State Services Commission (SSC) has carried out an investigation into Mr Sutton’s conduct following a complaint from a CERA staff member.

“I expect high standards of Public Service chief executives and I take any complaints of inappropriate conduct very seriously,” Mr Rennie said.

“Every State servant must be able to work in a safe environment where they are treated with professionalism and respect,” he said.

The investigation report was provided to the Commissioner. However, Mr Sutton offered his resignation and this was accepted. While the report found that Mr Sutton’s conduct did not always meet the standard expected of public service leaders, it did not recommend dismissal. Although not called on to make any decision in relation to the report, the Commissioner is very likely to have followed the recommendation not to dismiss Mr Sutton.

“I respect Mr Sutton’s decision and acknowledge that this was a very difficult call to make for someone who is so committed to the Canterbury community,” Mr Rennie said.

“Mr Sutton has made an outstanding contribution to Canterbury as Chief Executive of CERA since 2011 and he leaves a strong legacy to his successor. His visible and engaged leadership during challenging times will be remembered well for many years”.

“Greater Christchurch’s recovery continues to be a major focus for the Public Service and Mr Sutton’s resignation will not affect the work to make that happen or the role of CERA,” he said.

“Throughout this process, SSC has worked with CERA to ensure the complainant has been supported and will receive any ongoing support required,” said Mr Rennie. “As his employer, we have also provided support to Mr Sutton,” Mr Rennie said.

To protect the privacy of the parties involved in this complaint and to respect undertakings of confidentiality, the investigation report and details of the exact nature of the complaint will not be released.

“I expect every government agency to have clear policies and processes to deal with complaints fairly and confidentially, and to provide appropriate support to complainants and those whose conduct is investigated,” Mr Rennie said.

Mr Sutton has decided that a natural point for a change of leadership for CERA is the date at which CERA transitions from being a Public Service department to being a departmental agency hosted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Therefore, he will cease to be Chief Executive of CERA on 31 January 2015, the day before the departmental agency is formed.

Arrangements for an Acting Chief Executive for CERA from 1 February 2015 and the recruitment process for the ongoing Chief Executive of CERA will be advised shortly.

“This will no doubt be a difficult time for the people who work for CERA. SSC will be working closely with the senior leadership team to ensure CERA staff are well supported and can continue with the excellent work they are doing,” Mr Rennie said.

The Press reports:

. . . He had been under investigation for the last seven weeks after a complaint of sexual harassment from a senior staff member.

The allegation accused him of making inappropriate jokes and comments, and giving her an unwelcome hug. . .

That sort of behaviour complained of would have been common-place, and at least tolerated, in many workplaces not too long ago.

It isn’t now, although it’s not always black and white. What someone finds unwelcome and/or offensive might not concern someone else.

However, a CEO must lead by example and be above reproof.

 


Sutton right man for big job

May 13, 2011

The appointment of Roger Sutton as the chief executive of Cera,  the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, is an inspired one.

The Press says:

Roger Sutton calls himself a “big picture guy”, but admits his new role heading the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) is going to require a wider lens.

As chief executive of Christchurch lines company Orion for the past eight years, Sutton has built a reputation as an approachable, communicative, analytical, creative and quirky business leader. . .

. . . In 2003, he beat 38 other applicants to the chief executive job.

He has made it his own through a tumultuous time in the energy industry.

Sutton said he relished the cross-over of engineering into wider society – economics, environment and regulation – and saw an opportunity to take those interests by applying to lead Cera.

“I didn’t initially apply but a lot of people talked to me about the role and suggested it would be a good thing if I applied, so in the end I did, so here I am,” he said.

He has taken a significant cut in salary to take the job. On Checkpoint last night he said he’d be dropping about $200,000.

That is a considerable financial sacrifice which shows his commitment to his city and its recovery.

It is a very big job and the wide approval across the political spectrum shows he is the right man for it.


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