The Herald reported:
A former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority worker has blasted the official investigation into accusations of sexual harassment by former chief executive Roger Sutton as “incompetent”. …
Former communications adviser Tina Nixon questioned whether “people really think that a hug was what it was all about”. …
“No woman in the public service should currently feel confident that any complaint would be investigated professionally and without bias,” said Ms Nixon, who left Cera earlier this year to become economic development programme manager at Masterton District Council.
Cera operated the most “robust environment” she had experienced, in having worked in “half dozen or so” government departments.
Therefore, she said people needed to “get past the breathtaking PR snow job”.
The woman at the centre of the incident had done more for the post-earthquake Christchurch community “than many people I know”, Ms Nixon said. …
I know Tina Nixon well. She’s a friend. Tina is no sensitive 1970s feminist petal. She’s a tough as boots battler who kills mutton birds the old fashioned way by biting their necks. If Tina says that there was far more to this than the odd hug, she is worth listening to when she says the press conference was a “breathtaking PR snow job”
Andrea Vance wrote yesterday:
Gosh. Wasn’t that all a silly misunderstanding over dear old, affectionate Roger Sutton yesterday? Lost his job over a couple of hugs and a few off-colour remarks.
It’s a shame really. On Thursday, Roger was going to speak at a construction industry event in Christchurch called “How to attract women to your jobs”. He’ll probably have to give it a miss now.
Thankfully, those decent chaps at the State Services Commission (SSC) have got his back.
In a year when the public service should be self-flagellating over the mishandling of the Malaysian diplomat sexual assault case and the Roastbusters scandal, the SSC has taken victim-shaming to a whole new level.
Sutton’s victim did not make her complaint lightly. She’s respected, professional (not that this matters) and, like any woman forced into this nightmare, would have worried about her career. But, she bravely made a stand and forced her harasser to face up to his actions.
And how did the SSC reward her for her courage? They allowed her to be victim-shamed. First privately. And then very publicly.
First, she was sent home to work. Sutton remained in his job at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority offices for the course of an eight-week investigation.
Her complaint was upheld. But the SSC did not deem it serious enough for Sutton to be sacked.
I can’t describe the nature of the complaints. But, as described to me, behaviour of that nature is sexist, humiliating, demeaning and an assertion of power over the victim.
I think Andrea makes some valid points. It seems what went on was more serious than was portrayed at the press conference, and allowing Sutton to spin his version of what happened was unfair to the complainant.
My view has been that it would have been preferable for the complainant to raise the issues internally with a deputy Secretary and/or HR manager and have them talk to Sutton and tell him that his style is making some staff feel uncomfortable. And then only if no change, elevate it up to the SSC. While I don’t know the full process of what happened, it seems that these issues are long standing and that there were attempts internally to raise concerns.
The Press has some more details:
The Press has obtained details of the complaint from a source that describes the nature of Sutton’s alleged impropriety.
- Suggesting to young female staff that they participate in “visible G-string Friday”.
- Unwanted, body-press hugs.
- Asking the complainant whom she considered to be “hot” and “sexy” and who she would like to have sex with.
- Calling female staff members “honey” and “sweetie”.
A public sector CEO should not be behaving like that. It does create a hostile work environment for female staff.
The Press has seen details provided by another Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) employee as part of the SSC investigation into Sutton.
- Sutton made a sexually suggestive comment about Prime Minister John Key’s wife, Bronagh, in the presence of the chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Andrew Kibblewhite.
That’s rather stupid!
A friend of the complainant yesterday released a statement expressing concern that Sutton’s show of contrition had allowed him to downplay his actions.
“The unfairness of this is just wrong. She has followed all the rules, kept quiet and maintained her dignity, yet the other side gets to play the sympathy card and laud it over her.
“Someone needs to speak for her before any more damage is done and victims everywhere decide there is no point fighting the big man’s system.
“It has torn her up – she loves her job at Cera.”
The press conference was a very bad idea, as it allowed Sutton to frame the issue on his terms.
Meanwhile, State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie yesterday confirmed he was considering sanctions against Sutton for breaching confidentiality. …
Rennie would not discuss the allegations yesterday, saying he was bound by confidentiality clauses, as were Sutton and the complainant.
He believed Sutton had breached the agreement by divulging details of the case at Monday’s press conference and had told him so.
Last night, Rennie said he was considering what action to take against Sutton.
Wouldn’t it have been a good idea and somewhat competent to work out before hand what would be said at the press conference?
Tags: Iain Rennie
, Roger Sutton
, Tina Nixon