Environment Ministry apologies to Erin Leigh

Trevor Mallard and Helen Clark won’t apologise to Erin Leigh, but the Environment Ministry has.  Just been e-mailed a PR from them which says:

I am concerned that written material provided to the Minister in preparation for a question in the House led to a reflection on the work of Ms Erin Leigh in 2005/06 that was not intended by the Ministry.

Ms Leigh, a professional communications consultant, was contracted in 2005 by the Ministry. Her contract was renewed three times. In May 2006 she notified the Ministry that she was ending her contract and ceased work. At the time the Ministry accepted this without seeking any further explanation, and paid all contract fees billed to it.

Ms Leigh had completed a number of projects under the four contracts. Her media work was professional and of good quality, especially work that she did in respect of the Waitaki Water Allocation Board of Inquiry.

The climate change work on which she was engaged, with other Ministry personnel, was not yet concluded and was subsequently completed by others.

Two weeks ago the Ministry was asked to provide the Minister with information on her work and her departure. Under time limitations, a briefing note was prepared from internal records and provided to the Minister.

As Chief Executive, I was responsible for that briefing. I did not take it or intend it to reflect on Ms Leigh’s professional ability or her performance under contract to the Ministry.

The events which have followed show that the note could be, and was, interpreted in this adverse way. In particular, the Minister understood it in that way, with public and personal consequences for Ms Leigh and for the Ministry.

Because these events were connected with an investigation that had already been initiated by the State Services Commissioner, I initially considered that there should not be a separate public response.

I now consider that there should have been a Ministry response and so I am releasing this statement. Because Ms Leigh has not agreed to the public release of the briefing note, the Ministry will not be releasing it with this statement.

Both personally and on behalf of the Ministry I apologise for what has occurred, and I regret the public attention which has been generated.

Hugh Logan
Chief Executive

I suspect Logan has had furious staff demanding the Ministry now stay silent.  They know that if Mallard got away with it, any of them could be professionally destroyed in the same way. 

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