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"It’s a very strange situation to create a crisis over something as small as this"

Tuesday 08 December 2020

"It’s a very strange situation to create a crisis over something as small as this"


The Government still hasn’t decided when the contract of the outgoing Chief Executive will end, a month after he agreed to stand down following a bitter dispute over his second job.

The revelation came in a Scrutiny hearing held yesterday, which saw Charlie Parker hit out at the way the situation was handled, saying it was "very strange" that his Non-Executive Director role at New River had been turned into a "crisis" and that many people felt "embarrassed and ashamed" at how he had been treated.

Mr Parker took on the second job at real estate company New River in August after only verbally asking the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, rather than securing written permission from his 'Employer', the States Employment Board (SEB), as his contract requires.

In the wake of the “oversight”, Mr Parker agreed to step down from his role and the Chief Minister pledged a Government-wide review into the management of conflicts of interest.

But the climbdown – which came three days after the position was first revealed – did little to calm fury among States Members, leading to a vote of no confidence in the Chief Minister which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Yesterday, Public Accounts Committee Chair Deputy Inna Gardiner and Constable Karen Shenton-Stone probed Mr Parker on the saga, which was detailed in the latest edition of UK magazine Private Eye - a satirical current affairs publication known for its lampooning of public figures - and saw Jersey labelled a "rotten borough."

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Pictured: Mr Parker accepted the role at New River in August.

When asked when he would leave his role as Chief Executive, Mr Parker said he couldn’t say because it hadn’t been finalised. He couldn’t confirm either when a date was likely to be fixed.

“I had hoped it would have been finalised last week but unfortunately, it hasn’t yet. So, I can’t answer that question for you Chair,” he said.

When pressed by Deputy Gardner to explain the reasons for the delay, Mr Parker said it wasn’t a matter for him to discuss. 

“As far as I’m concerned, I have made it clear that I am prepared to manage an orderly transition, he said. "Discussions have taken place to ensure that’s done in the right way, but there are issues which are linked to that, which I am not privy to.

“I know the Council of Ministers and the States Employment Board have discussed the matter and have asked me to stay on a bit longer to enable that transition but the exact date has yet to be finalised.”

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Pictured: Mr Parker said no date had been set for his departure.

Later on in the hearing, Constable Shenton-Stone asked him to clarify his reasons for leaving. Mr Parker initially referred the Constable to the letter he had written to the Chief Minister before adding: “It was unfortunately something I was asked to do and then there was going to be some decisions that were made that I couldn’t agree to, so I felt it was appropriate for me to step down.”

He then defended his decision to “sacrifice” his £250,000 role over a £50,000 NED, highlighting that the New River job was in “no shape or form beneficial” to him as he would have received no remuneration as he had agreed to give the money to charity.

“Being on a NED is not an unusual situation and is, in any organisation, something you should try and encourage if it was for the benefit of that organisation,” Mr Parker said.

“Any work that I was going to be doing as a NED would have been in my own time, but the basis of that opportunity I felt could provide Jersey with huge amount of additional information." 

He rejected the view that he needed to seek the SEB’s permission, suggesting he should have simply informed them “as a courtesy."

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Pictured: Mr Parker told the Panel the New River role was in “no shape or form beneficial” to him.

The outgoing CEO also refused to confirm who had signed a press release wrongly stating Senator Lyndon Farnham had given his agreement for the role.

Instead it was confirmed after the publication that the Economic Development Minister had, in fact, expressed “some reservations and concerns as to how the appointment might be received among some quarters in Jersey", with Senator Moore saying his actual words were that he "wouldn't touch it with a barge-pole."

Mr Parker said the questions on the matter should be directed to the Chief Minister, adding that process and protocol around press releases were being reviewed.

Asked for his overall view on the situation, Mr Parker said he was “very disappointed” both personally and professionally.

“I think some short-term expediency has prevailed at the expense of trying to deliver a lasting, long-term change that I was brought in to deliver but was never going to be easy and would always alienate some people who didn’t want change and/or had a vested interest,” he said.

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Pictured: Mr Parker said “an uncontroversial, individual employment matter” shouldn't have been used as “a catalyst to challenge the Government”.

“I think some of my comments have been made clear about the way in which this has been reported and I think it has been an interesting response from many islanders who feel both embarrassed and ashamed at the way in which I have been treated in this matter.” 

Early on, he had also criticised how “an uncontroversial, individual employment matter” had been used as “a catalyst to challenge the Government”.

“When I got the permission to go on the board, given to me in writing and confirmed, then that should have been the end of the matter,” Mr Parker said. “There was no either or, it was something that was actually quite easy to be able to deal with and shouldn’t have been a matter that resulted in anyone either trying to make me stand down and or to bring a vote of no confidence as I have made clear. 

“It was an administrative oversight which I apologised for to the States Employment Board but actually it’s a very strange situation for an organisation to want to create a crisis over something as small as this." 

READ MORE…

Government defends CEO's extra £50k job

"The CEO is almost acting independently"

Gov CEO's second job salary 'to go to charity'

Did Gov CEO have correct permission for second job?

Chief Minister and CEO apologise for second job "oversight"

Ministers tell Parker second job "not compatible" with CEO role

Chief Minister and Gov CEO locked in second job talks

End of the road for Charlie Parker

Chief Minister considering next step after Parker comms blunder

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Comments

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Posted by Kathryn Robinson on
most Islanders feel embarrassed and ashamed? Do they? How many has CP actually spoken to? I don’t honk CP has any idea of what the public really think of him - he lives in his own bubble.
Posted by nigel pearce on
Am I the only one who expects him to be in the job for quite a long while yet?
Perhaps our chief minister will be ‘unable’ to find anyone suitable to replace him!
Posted by Mike Robinson on
This episode demonstrates to me two things in particular.
Firstly - a serious lack of judgement by Mr. Parker as he did not, and still does not, recognise the real or perceived conflict of interest in taking on this NED role.
Secondly - he should be expected to be fully conversant with the terms of his contract which explicitly requires "approval in writing by the Employer [the SEB]" to take on another role. He either was not ware of this term or chose to ignore it.
I am sure he would have taken a really dim view if one of his subordinates had acted in a similar way.
It was therefore right and proper that questions subsequently arose as to his suitability as CEO.
Posted by David Moon on
Whatever the right and wrongs of Mr Parker's resignation would it not be usual in the circumstances for him to be put on gardening leave until his departure. Don't the SEB receive legal advice on such matters from a lawyer experienced in the practice of employment law? The members of the SEB being lay people can hardly be expected to be competent in with such technical issues when Directors of commercial companies rely on advice from experienced employment lawyers in dealing with such matters.
Posted by Paul Hadikin on
Cp is teflon he is going nowhere
Posted by Alan Keen on
Very odd, that the Minister for Economic Development can hold a Directorship. Unless the Royal Yacht is a charity, which I am certain it is not.
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