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The Press-News column Sep 17

A big pay-day for Christchurch City Council’s outgoing CEO.

So, the bucks do stop with Tony Marryatt. All $492,932 of them. As Christchurch cringes at his hefty exit package, a host of questions remain. Why should this individual receive such largesse, when he has “chosen to resign.”? I think Tony Marryatt should have been forced to serve out the rest of his contract, redeployed to the council call centre, to man the phones. Think of the fun we could have had! In reality, a cushy compromise deal has been struck by the council, to keep the case out of court – and the subsequent airing of dirty linen. But wouldn’t it be refreshing if public sector fat-cats had to live or die by the sword, just as professional athletes have to. There are no golden handshakes or big pay days for non-performance in the professional sporting world. The Chief Executive has finally accepted “ultimate responsibility” for presiding over the biggest operational calamity the city council has ever seen. Don’t forget, he council brass had back-slapped themselves into believing that all was well in the state of Denmark, even as the ship was going down. And at last report, the fall-out from this ignominious consenting train-wreck will cost the ratepayer $4.5 million. But where’s the accountability? ( It seems to reside in the same imaginary land of consequence, for the under-insurance of council assets.) Tony Marryatt hasn’t even had the good grace to honour his word, and reimburse the ratepayer for his backdated payrise.  Peter Winder’s report has also sheeted home the blame to various council managers, immediately under Marryatt’s wing. These senior employees have conveniently had their names suppressed in the public report, although frankly, they should be packing their bags too. But the most deplorable finding in Winder’s report is the fact that despite repeated claims to the contrary, the Marryatt regime was marred by poor internal communication and a “silo culture.” I actually wonder if the wooly-worded “unfair dismissal” clause in New Zealand employment law is unfairly skewed in favour of poorly performing employees, serving as a barrier to their removal. Given that, it’s remarkable that Tony Marryatt’s employment contract wasn’t bolted down with a schedule of highly prescriptive performance measures. That is a salutary lesson for the incoming council, who must ensure the next CEO’s terms of employment are far more prescriptive. On that note, I’m hoping the outgoing managing director of Ballantynes, Mary Devine, is being actively encouraged to seek the position. An enterprising Canterbury woman, with proven commercial nouse, carries a lot of appeal. Meanwhile, the Parker-Marryatt era will be remembered for its culture of unquestioning, slavering sycophancy,  that undermined sound decision-making, and cost the ratepayer a bomb.

Mike Yardley’s weekly column in The Press. First published September 17.

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