The bitter row over the Government CEO's second job could bring down the island's entire political leadership this week, with the Chief Minister now facing a confidence vote.
Senator John Le Fondré and Chief Executive Charlie Parker apologised on Friday for failing to ensure the latter had the correct permission to take on the role of Non-Executive Director at UK real estate firm New River.
According to his contract, Mr Parker should have secured written permission from the States Employment Board (SEB) – his ‘Employer’ – but instead only verbally asked its Chair, Senator Le Fondré.
In the wake of the “oversight”, which was reluctantly accepted by a “disappointed” SEB, the Chief Minister pledged a Government-wide review into the management of conflicts of interest.
Pictured: The relevant part of Mr Parker's contract, which was made public in 2018 following a campaign by Express.
Over the weekend, Chief Scrutineer Senator Kristina Moore reached the threshold of signatures needed for a no confidence motion, and says she will formally submit it this morning.
She announced the move in an email to States Members at 06:39 this morning, writing: "This is regrettable, but such is the strength of public feeling that this debate needs to happen before the crucial decisions that are lined up over coming weeks are taken.
"The people have lost confidence in those who are taking decisions on their behalf and that is not right as we enter a covid winter."
She added: "I hope that you will see this debate as an opportunity to regain integrity and put our island back on track."
Pictured: Senator Kristina Moore said she would lodge the vote of no confidence this morning.
If the Bailiff allows, politicians could be voting on whether the current Government should fall as early as tomorrow.
A crisis Council of Ministers meeting was held last night on how to fend off the impending challenge as the island heads into ‘Covid Winter’.
Despite lasting more than three hours, Ministerial sources told Express that the result of the meeting – described variously as “tense” and “shockingly bad” – was far from 'disaster averted.'
Express understands that Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham remains unhappy that the first of three Government statements on the matter said that he "cleared" Mr Parker’s appointment. It was later confirmed that he 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."
Pictured: The Chief Minister (right) and Deputy Chief Minister (left) were initially said to have sanctioned the role - but it later emerged that the Deputy did not support it.
And other angry Ministers share some States Members’ concerns that the Chief Minister is not able to ensure good governance and hold the top civil servant to account – though Senator Le Fondré protested this on Friday, saying he expects “the highest standards of integrity and commitment to Jersey throughout the public sector.”
Ahead of this week’s likely censure vote, Express understands politicians are largely divided over concerns about the upheaval it would cause Government as Jersey heads into a second wave of covid, and wanting to ensure that Mr Parker’s actions are not without consequence. More than one individual has likened the blunder to Dominic Cummings’ Barnard Castle saga, expressing hopes that it is not ‘forgotten’ in the same way.
“John will need to make progress on what happens with Charlie in the next few days,” a Ministerial source said, adding: “If he doesn’t, then his position becomes more difficult.”
Speaking to Express on Friday, senior Scrutineer Deputy Kirsten Morel suggested Senator Le Fondré’s position is already compromised, saying: “The Chief Minister should stand down from the States Employment Board. The SEB cannot be impartial while he is on it.”
Pictured: A vote of no confidence could take place as early as tomorrow.
He added that he was also “extremely disappointed” that the SEB accepted the error rather than seeking to overturn it.
Renewing his demand for Mr Parker to step down from New River, Deputy Morel went on to describe the apology and explanation from the CEO – who said his failure to gain correct permission was due to "overlapping circumstances, both personal and related to Government priorities" - as “not adequate.”
“He is taking the Jersey people as a joke,” the Deputy said, adding of the Chief Minister’s Government-wide conflict management review pledge: “The review is nothing – it is a sop in an attempt to pacify people. No one is calling for a review, they are calling for him to resign.”
He added: “They say it’s an ‘oversight’ – this proves that [Charlie Parker] does not have the bandwidth. If he can’t do his paperwork right, how can he be expected to do [a second job]?”
Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel's renewed his calls for the CEO to resign from his NED role at New River.
Speaking to Express ahead of Friday’s apologies, Jersey’s former Treasurer George Baird expressed concerns about the Chief Executive juggling two roles.
Having worked in one of the island’s most senior civil service roles for nearly 20 years alongside figures like legendary local economist Colin Powell before retiring and taking on around 20 directorships, he has seen life from both sides.
Reflecting on the workload at the highest tier of the civil service, he recalled: “We were working literally seven days a week and had no spare time whatsoever.”
Despite the pressure, he noted: “In those days in a senior position, it was an honour and a privilege to be in that position and we would never even have contemplated taking on such a role.”
“What [Mr Parker] should be doing is dedicating every second of his time to the wellbeing of the people of Jersey,” he continued. “…By him taking on a non-executive directorship, he clearly isn’t dedicating the time that he should be to resolving the problems that we have in the island of Jersey, which are astronomical,” Mr Baird said.
Pictured: George Baird, Jersey's former Treasurer of nearly 20 years, told Express that Mr Parker should be dedicating "100% or even more" to his role as CEO.
He also cast doubt on assertions that Mr Parker’s role would only take up less than a week of his spare time per year – three days of meetings, plus half-year and full-year results meetings, which he will prepare for in his “own time at evenings and on weekends.”
“The Role of NED is much, much more onerous than ever before with increasing corporate governance rules,” Mr Baird warned. “My view is that he should continue in the position of CEO and not take on any extraneous duties and that means effectively resign from that position.”
In a letter to the Chief Minister that was made public last week, Mr Parker moved to defend his second role – the salary for which will be distributed among charities, including “a number in Jersey” – as being complementary to his duties as CEO.
He said the position “enables me to use their expertise, research and contacts to better understand the future of retail centres, the impact of online shopping and the regeneration of town centres.”
“All of this will enable me to bring more expertise and intelligence to benefit the future economic regeneration and recovery of the island and, in particular, its retail heart in St. Helier.”
Pictured: Mr Parker argued his role would give him expertise to assist with the regeneration of the high street.
He reiterated that New River “has no operational business interests in Jersey” and pledged to consult with the Chief Minister should any potential conflict arise “in order to be able to resolve it appropriately.”
Despite failing to respond to a number of questions and requests for comment from Express as well as a number of other local news outlets, Mr Parker also took aim at the media, saying it was “disappointing” that “news of my appointment has been reported and commented on without the full facts” and complaining of “limited right of reply.” Instead, the Government has only released a number of statements.
He concluded his letter by affirming his commitment to the island, saying: “My record as a public servant for nearly 40 years both in the UK and now here, has always been about the place I serve. Those people in Jersey public life who have questioned my integrity and commitment to the island and public service, do not know me.
“I hope that having the full facts, they reflect on their comments and avoid politicising the civil service, which I am proud to lead. The suggestion that I have given anything less than my maximum commitment to Jersey during this difficult time, or will do in the future, is simply wrong.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Jeremy Maçon has put forward a proposal to request that the SEB and Council of Ministers "review the existing rules, policies and guidance relating to the ability of public sector workers to secure or hold employment that is secondary or additional to their employment with the States of Jersey."
While it coincided with the Chief Minister’s review pledge, Deputy Maçon confirmed to Express that he "had no discussion with the Chief Minister on the matter" and that he lodged the proposition with the States Greffe on Thursday night after being contacted by a number of concerned constituents, whom he thanked for taking their time express their views on the matter.
In a report accompanying his review proposal, he writes: "It is one thing for, say, a manual worker to gain some extra hours working in a pub, or a nurse to gain extra hours in the private sector. But it is completely another thing for the most senior members of staff to take on other roles that may put them in potential conflict with their duties...
"In these situations, one always tries to avoid discussion about an individual.
"It seems to be that the rules surrounding this area need to be updated and, in particular, that the rules regarding senior roles need to be more stringent."
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