Garner on Leigh

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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