Former Gore council CFO wants an apology too

A former senior employee of the Gore District Council who clashed with its chief executive wants to know when he will get an apology.

Noting the recent apology from the council to chief executive Stephen Parry, Doug Walker again recounted some of his experience of working for the council nearly 20 years ago.

Mr Walker said he suffered from burnout after he was promoted to chief financial officer, received counselling he had to pay for and advice from a workplace bullying consultant and then went on medical stress leave.

Mr Walker has previously talked to the Otago Daily Times about a series of allegations then arriving in his letterbox.

"I was on stress leave because they worked me to the bone," he said.

"To throw that at me in my first week of stress leave, it’s just really ruthless."

He moved to the United Kingdom, but Mr Parry and two family members one day arrived on his London doorstep to tell him a complaint would be lodged against him with the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Mr Walker was found to have erred in some respects, but his career and institute membership continued, until recently.

He said he retired early, as he never recovered mentally from the trauma he suffered.

"Mr Parry, an apology would be very much appreciated," Mr Walker wrote last week.

The ODT asked Mr Parry if he intended to apologise.

A council spokeswoman said it could not comment on allegations by staff, even those from an employee 17 years ago.

"It is public record that following a review of information associated with the complaints of workplace stress and bullying at the council by Mr Walker in 2008, the Department of Labour’s health and safety inspector concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.

"It would be inappropriate for the council to speculate on the motivation behind these continued historical allegations."

Gore Mayor Ben Bell and councillors apologised to the chief executive last week for a breach of his privacy this year, "which triggered public and significant media attention on Mr Parry, causing significant harm to him, his family and his reputation".

He accepted the apology.

"The mayor and council wish to voice their unreserved confidence in Mr Parry and his capability, as well as that of his team," the council said in its statement on Wednesday.

"The council also affirms that Mr Parry is a skilled and experienced local government chief executive and has created a strong management team around him who are all supportive of him as their leader."

Both Mr Bell and Mr Parry, whose working relationship broke down last year, have faced calls to resign. Councillors decided in April there should be an independent review to restore confidence in the council.

Mr Walker said he had had feedback from former staff who were distressed by the statement.

He offered a theory to explain the situation.

"The statement would make sense if Mr Parry desires to leave council in the near term, especially if he feels working with the mayor will continue to be challenging," Mr Walker said.

"Mr Parry would need confidence he can find alternative employment and for that to happen he needs support from council to help build his credibility and reputation. The apology helps this."

This was put to Mr Parry on Friday and he had no comment.

The council said elected members and Mr Parry had agreed to put differences behind them, work together, "and make every effort to rebuild trust and confidence".

A local government scholar now living in Australia said the council’s statement had him rolling his eyes.

Dr Andy Asquith, from Curtin University in Perth, said the basics of public administration included the top administrator answering to politicians.

In Gore’s case, it looked "as if the politicians are under the control of the management".