ORC pay­outs ‘un­ac­cept­able’

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

The amount of money the Otago Re­gional Coun­cil has spent on per­sonal griev­ance pay­outs and the num­ber of cases is ‘‘un­ac­cept­able’’ and re­flects badly on the coun­cil, can­di­date Gary Kel­li­her says.

It was re­vealed in a meet­ing last week, the coun­cil has paid out $236,750 in per­sonal griev­ance claims since 2014, amid claims of a ‘‘bul­ly­ing cul­ture’’ and ‘‘lack of lead­er­ship’’ by the ex­ec­u­tive team.

The coun­cil was ap­proached for com­ment last week, but had not re­sponded by our dead­line.

Kel­li­her, who is cur­rently stand­ing for a seat on the ORC in a by-elec­tion, said dur­ing his time as a coun­cil­lor, be­tween 2013 and 2016, con­cerned staff had ap­proached him, which he raised with the chair­man.

‘‘I viewed th­ese ap­proaches as very se­ri­ous and con­cern­ing and passed th­ese con­cerns to the chair­man. There were long­stand­ing staff leav­ing on prin­ci­ple, and anony­mous let­ters sent to all coun­cil­lors. The low staff morale was re­flected in a staff sur­vey. I was one coun­cil­lor of 12 who chal­lenged very strongly on the sit­u­a­tion. How­ever, they were em­ploy­ment mat­ters and all staff em­ploy­ment mat­ters are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the chief ex­ec­u­tive.‘‘

Fel­low can­di­date Ella Law­ton said while the per­sonal griev­ance cases were a man­age­ment is­sue, it was a lot of money to pay out.

‘‘With the amount of work the coun­cil needs to do in the next few years with is­sues such as deemed per­mits, wa­ter flow lim­its and pests, you would hope that the money was go­ing to bet­ter use. The chief ex­ec­u­tive is re­quired to man­age staff in or­der to carry out the projects pro­posed in the year’s work-plan, within bud­get and in a way that achieves the vi­sion and out­comes of the coun­cil. My con­cern at a gov­er­nance level, would be that projects set by coun­cil are not be­ing com­pleted.There are a num­ber of coun­cil projects that have not been and do not look that they will be com­pleted this fi­nan­cial year. It is un­clear about the rea­sons why there is a lack of ac­tion, though it seems staffing may be one, I would be ask­ing what is go­ing wrong?’’

Law­ton was aware of the re­sults of a staff sur­vey, and had con­tin­ued to hear con­cerns the coun­cil had a rep­u­ta­tion for a ‘‘lack of open­ness’’.

‘‘This kind of rep­u­ta­tion can cre­ate a raft of prob­lems.’’

SUP­PLIED

Gary Kel­li­her with his wife Kathy and daugh­ters Emma, 13, and Shan­non, 10.

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