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Sutton quits

“Hugs and jokes. I did these things," says CERA boss as he resigns amid inquiry into sexual harassment.

Chris Hutching
Mon, 17 Nov 2014

UPDATE: “Hugs and jokes. I did these things. I’ve hurt someone with this behaviour and I’m sorry. I may have offended other women and I’m sorry for that," Mr Sutton says at his media conference this afternoon.

“I never meant to harm anyone. I called women honey and sweetie. I was wrong, it’s sexist."

Mr Sutton says the past eight weeks have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was exhausted after his time at CERA and new leadership was needed.

“It just feels like the right time to go.”

He says his work has become a contest between work and family and he wants to spend more time with his wife and children.

He says he is not a victim. He has been seeing a psychologist.

Mr Sutton’s wife Jo Malcolm gave her own media interview and says she is incredibly proud of her husband.

EARLIER: Roger Sutton has voluntarily resigned from his role as Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive after an investigation into a sexual harassment claim made against him by a senior CERA staff member.

The announcement was made by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Mr Sutton at a press conference held this afternoon at CERA’s central Christchurch offices.

Mr Sutton’s resignation is effective from January 31, 2015.

An investigation into the allegations against Mr Sutton has been underway for the past seven weeks, but it was only on Saturday – after he’d received the investigation report – that Mr Rennie confirmed its existence in a media statement.

Although the report found Mr Sutton’s conduct did not always meet the standard expected of public service leaders, it did not recommend his dismissal, a recommendation Mr Rennie was likely to have followed.

However, he was pre-empted by Mr Sutton’s decision to resign.

“I respect Mr Sutton’s decision and acknowledge that this was a very difficult call to make for someone who is so committed to the Canterbury community,” Mr Rennie said.

The state services commissioner paid tribute to Mr Sutton’s work as CERA chief executive, saying he made “an outstanding contribution to Canterbury” in the role and that he was leaving “a strong legacy to his successor”.

“His visible and engaged leadership during challenging times will be remembered well for many years,” Mr Rennie said.

It was decided 31 January 2015 was “a natural point for a change of leadership for CERA” because it’s the date the organisation, previously a public service deparment, becomes a departmental agency hosted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Sutton achieved prominence and popularity during the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 when he was chief executive of the council-owned electricity Orion lines company.

His popularity was less for what he did than his explanations about what was happening.

He provided detailed information about how Orion was restoring power and the sequence affecting particular neighbourhoods.

This open style did not continue after he took over at CERA in spite of – or perhaps because of – the employment of a large cohort of media communications personnel.

CERA is leading the blueprint for the Christchurch rebuild amid accusations citizens are largely left out of the loop about changes and developments, which are being led by an architectural team redirecting traffic flows, and anchor projects.

With his resignation today, Mr Sutton leaves an organisation which has yet to complete its first rebuild since the earthquakes.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz

Chris Hutching
Mon, 17 Nov 2014
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