Garner on Leigh

September 22nd, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner has a strong blog post on what happened to Erin Leigh:

Remember ? You may not.

Here’s a quick synopsis. She worked at the Environment Ministry in 2006 as a communications consultant and witnessed Labour Party Ministers David Benson-Pope and ’s complete politicisation of the Department. Benson-Pope was sacked for lying over his role in getting rid of a completely competent and professional woman whose partner worked for the National Party. Then enter Parker the new Minister. Parker hired Clare Curran (now a Labour MP) as an “independent consultant” in the Department, to run the PR team – he claimed she was politically neutral.

In my opinion it was so Labour could control and run the messages the Department was sending out. Leigh left in the end – disgusted with what she witnessed, but stayed silent until I rang her in 2007. Leigh ended up speaking out, she was a brave and consummate neutral public servant – who witnessed something that was wrong. But the Labour Party, supported by the so called “neutral” public service management, brutally attacked her, her work and her reputation. Leigh took the Crown to the Supreme Court and last week she finally won.

The Erin Leigh case is often held up as an example of why the public service nickname for Wellington was Helengrad. Those who spoke out were dealt to.

Firstly, Leigh in my view deserves an apology, and a payout to not only cover costs, but to reflect damages. This has destroyed her in many ways.

The apology must first and foremost come from the State Services Commissioner .

He needs to make good on all the rhetoric he and his Department talk about every day about ethics and the neutrality of the public service. A real and brave leader would stand up Iain. Make good on all your talk, and all your workshops. Because without an apology from you on behalf of the public service, your talk is cheap Iain.

That’s a very good idea.
David Parker should also acknowledge his role in all this and openly apologise to Leigh. Clare Curran should do the same.

Trevor Mallard’s apology at the time was half-hearted, coming out stronger now Erin Leigh has won her case certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Parker and Mallard are certainly culpable, but I will disagree with Duncan on the issue of Curran. As far as I can tell, Clare did nothing wrong. She didn’t demand the job and demand Leigh be sacked. She got hired for a job, and did it.
The fault lies primarily with Parker who told the CEO that they should hire her. Parker should never be making any suggestions to the CEO about whom they employ, let alone suggesting a Labour Party activist be employed in what is meant to be a neutral communications role.
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28 Responses to “Garner on Leigh”

  1. thedavincimode (6,606 comments) says:

    Goodness me. Has Garner regurgitated the pill?

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  2. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    David: I am much indebted to you for your treatment of this.

    I appreciated very much your giving Ms Leigh space for her Q+A post yesterday, and it’s good to see Garner’s follow-up of this today.

    Perhaps Garner could march down to the SSC building in Molesworth St, camera team in tow, and doorstop Iain Rennie. Or perhaps arrange for him (or Lindsay Gow) to be interviewed on that very excellent current affairs programme, The Nation.

    This story has not been covered well in the mainstream media. Perhaps they’re too focused on feeding their readers and viewers speculative crap about the reunion of the English rugby player Michael Tindall and his wife.

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  3. 3-coil (1,215 comments) says:

    Only a few short years ago – how easy it has been to forget how venal the Wellington political scene was under Clark’s corrupt Labour government.

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  4. backster (2,140 comments) says:

    “Parker should never be making any suggestions to the CEO about whom they employ, let alone suggesting a Labour Party activist be employed in what is meant to be a neutral communications role.”

    But Parker is a Labour Party darling and among the favourites to replace Goff as leader. Wouldn’t he apply this craft learnt at the feet of Helen.

    I agree LEIGH is owed an apology and RENNIE should do so or offer his resignation in lieu to the Minister. The Minister should at least express his disgust at the way she was treated.

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  5. hmmokrightitis (1,582 comments) says:

    Ive noted elsewhere that this drove my moniker. I too was on the recieving end of Labour in their time in office, via the Minister of Health. Nowhere near on the scale of what poor Ms Leigh has been put through, but enough for me to resign in disgust at the way I was treated by the then Minister in an open forum. In my resignation letter to the CEO (I was a part of the senior management team) I highlighted why I was resigning – the CEO was in the same forum and was witness to what happened.

    The response: There is nothing we can do. To do anything means we raise our head above the parapet. Neutral public service? Under labour, it was a left or terrified public service. There was nothing they would not do to shut down debate, no act too petty or nasty they would not use. I hold the lot of them in complete and utter contempt.

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  6. Monty (974 comments) says:

    Trevor Mallard, David Parker, Iain Rennie – I know you will all be reading this. Each and every one of you are a disgrace. Hang your shameful heads in shame. All three of you must apologise, and resign.

    Mallard and Parker – you know this was typical of how Labour ran their administration. Benson-Pope the bully and sex deviant finally got what was coming to him. But for the most part you have got off the hook. – Both of you need to fully and publically apologise fully and with honesty.

    Rennie – you need to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again. Grow some balls, come out and slam those involved, and ensure that Leigh is fully compensated.

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  7. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Garner makes a good point. If Rennie – and other public service ‘lovies’ want to talk about “ethics and the neutrality of the public service” then he has to front up. In my experience ethics and fairness in the public service are generally used as tools to promote a gay agenda and the power-play of a person who’s the minority de jour. Genuine fairness and openness doesn’t happy. I recall a president of the Maori Party speaking at a professional development session for public servants (not sure why he was invited) and basically telling everyone that Maori culture was superior to Pakeha culture. Everyone was polite and sucked it up. I doubt he got a gentle reminder of ethics and tolerance afterward. But if you suggested we debate publicly for policy reasons whether say homosexual practice should questioned, you’d be crucified. That’s politics, and that’s fine – has been for 4000 years and will continue to be – but let’s not then pretend the public service and the SSC is the cynosure of goodness in Wellington.

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  8. thedavincimode (6,606 comments) says:

    “I hold the lot of them in complete and utter contempt.”

    Then you will never walk alone hmmokeydokey.

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  9. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    I’d be interested to watch the Party Vote in Wellington this November.
    I wonder if the public service shifts a little bit right. More intellectual freedom and trust (a family member is very senior in the Health Ministry – she doesn’t vote Nat and isn’t a fan of her Minister, but she trusts him). No more Helengrad/Stockholm syndrome. And, with the cuts and restructures and the cutting of dead wood, the remnant may be more professional on average and people who value being paid well for their efforts – viz not pinko-socialists

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  10. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    Realistically, what are the chances of Rennie apologising to Leigh? I wish I were wrong, but it must be close to nil, I reckon.

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  11. David Garrett (6,952 comments) says:

    Oh how I wish I was penniless with all assets in trust (like most politicians) and thus not be worth suing….

    I supposed I could just “go anonymous” but thats not me….

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  12. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    I guess no one should be too surprised that when the politicians clash with the official it is the latter that usually come off second best. These cases, or similar ones, seem to come along from time to time, but it is rare for there to be much publicity. There was Warren Cooper vs Perry Cameron in the 90s and Steve Maharey vs Christine Rankin in 2000. I’m just trying to recall any other notable cases. It’s always the public servant that carries the consequences, no matter where the fault lies.

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  13. unaha-closp (1,157 comments) says:

    As far as I can tell, Clare did nothing wrong. She didn’t demand the job and demand Leigh be sacked. She got hired for a job, and did it.

    Ïf Curran was there so “Labour could control and run the messages the Department”, she above all others needs to provide an apology to Leigh.

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  14. Fisiani (1,024 comments) says:

    Labour believes that the end justifies the means.
    Labour believes they are always right.
    Labour hates anyone who disagrees.
    Labour will not tolerate objection
    Labour is thus unethical,wrong, uncaring and intolerant.
    Sadly people have short memories and we are doomed to have another bout of Labour in perhaps 2017.

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  15. Chris2 (772 comments) says:

    Another villain in this saga is surely the CEO of the Environment Ministry?

    Who is (or was) this person? They need to be named and shamed for failing to protect one of their employees from attack by a politician. Who is this weasel?

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  16. lastmanstanding (1,278 comments) says:

    What else do we expect Mallard Parker Curran et al are just power driven fruit cakes and Rennie et al are just Sir Humphreys.

    Alas when it comes to governance in NZ in all sectors and at all levels we are very deficent. We suffer from a lack of knowledge as to what good governance is on the one hand and a lack of will capacity and capability to act in accordance with good governance principles on the other.

    The LEFT are more guilty however the RIGHT are not squeeky clean either. Until we get a standard of good honest moral leadership we will struggle in the good governance department

    Remember The fish rots from the head.

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  17. Inventory2 (10,264 comments) says:

    @ Chris2; that’s part of the problem; at the time that this disgraceful abuse of power took place, the Environment Ministry was between CEO’s IIRC.

    I agree with others above; Erin Leigh is owed any number of apologies; first and foremost from Trevor Mallard. The irony that he was the first politician Erin Leigh ever voted for should not be lost; it symbolises how far Labour has alienated itself from its support base.

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  18. Viking2 (11,346 comments) says:

    No question, Rennie and Gow should go. End of.
    Mallard and co we can care off in November and will. I trust one of the other parties is standing a good strong candidate in his electorate.

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  19. Paulus (2,594 comments) says:

    Remember Curren’s famous paper to the Labour Party “Its the Language that Matters” whereby she pontificates that Labour should “CONTROL” the political language, and still does but not sucessfully.

    This was before she was actuall elected, during the stuffing of Benson-Pope, whose seat she now holds.

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  20. Mick Mac (1,091 comments) says:

    Trevor Mallard, David Parker, Iain Rennie and the CEO of Environment should all apologise.
    If Rennie doesn’t make sure she is recompensed then he should resign as clearly under his watch public servants aren’t protected from Politicians.

    Two women tell us why Labour should never be in Government. Setchell & Leigh.

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  21. V (711 comments) says:

    If the State Services Commissioner is not prepared to resign, rather than compromise the public service to the whims of politicians, then he should not be there. Period!

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  22. Mick Mac (1,091 comments) says:

    I agree with V.
    Logan wasn’t able to protect his people and went so should rennie and the existsing CEO.

    In fact if it became public that a minister was interfering with a department then THEY should stand down as a minister. possibly for a long time!

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  23. insider (1,037 comments) says:

    @ mick

    The current CEO has nothing to do with this. He has nearly totally cleaned out the MfE senior management. MfE were a ministry out of control under Labour. You have to remember that Clark was pushing sustainability above all else and MfE was the vehicle that it was being delivered through. They loved it and had huge amounts of money chucked at them but delivered almost nothing except poorly focussed PR campaigns and websites, because they were staffed by off the planet ideologues. It was basically the political wing of the Greens. Since then a more sober bunch of ex treasury and MED types have come in. And it’s a lot smaller.

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  24. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    These conflicts are inevitable in an environment where the public service is supposed to be neutral but has that neutrality compromised endlessly. At the end of the day, the politicians are in charge and the state services commissioner is supposed to paper over the cracks and pretend that everything is okay.

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  25. RF (1,366 comments) says:

    I agree that Mallard and his coven should hang their heads in shame. As a former card carrying member of the labour party and once holding a minor position in my electorate I am so pissed off that I gave my support to these pricks. I have nothing but contempt for them for treating Erin in this manner.

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  26. Nick K (1,218 comments) says:

    If micky savage, Lynn P and those others at that echo chamber, The Standard, ever wonder why Labour is in the doldrums, this is it. People haven’t forgotten.

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  27. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    Curran should most certainly be part of any apology. She needed an “in” door to get her hands on more taxpayers money and was given it – and proactively entrenched her and Labours position in this dept.

    She knew all about it and instead of standing up for sisterhood, bought her poison into the ministry.

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  28. Bagehot (42 comments) says:

    Has anyone commented that Parker and Curran were in a relationship around the time he “suggested” her for the civil service position

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