ORC payouts ‘unacceptable’
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.’’
Gary Kelliher with his wife Kathy and daughters Emma, 13, and Shannon, 10.