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Friday
May182012

Conduct and Performance

This is a purely subjective view of the proceedings that took place over the last fortnight. Most readers will be well aware that this is a pressure-cooker environment which can in many ways test character, and you surely  get know the foibles and peculiarities of people when they are put under this pressure.

This was a particularly difficult situation for many staff, some of whom were awaiting either good or bad news as regards their future. The atmosphere was palpably strained at times, and staff often reluctant to put themselves in the limelight. Whittle and all his crew sat in the back corner of the room and at times were singularly unhelpful. Apparently those in his team who are left are all in the clear, but they still appeared like cats on a hot tin roof at times.

Katina Cosomos - the TYP manager, was the star performer - appreciated by all in the room for the outstanding job she did in holding it all together, and getting to each conclusion effectively and with aplomb. She will go far in any organisation. On the other hand, Steve Baker was not as well prepared as usual, and put on his usual all singing, all dancing performance of which I have grown a little tired. His acolytes keep him on track, but his negativity was jarring at times.

I detected substantial impatience on the part of Hammond that seems to arise from the fact that in contrast to Baker, he is far from a detail man - he cuts corners legally and procedurally, and has little patience for following well established rules. This will of course get him into trouble sooner rather than later. I predict that he will rub the denizens of the office of the AG up the wrong way before too long if he continues in this manner.

Apart from anything else, he switches sides with whatever wind is blowing, and demonstrated that decidedly in the District waters debate - one side one day and the opposite the next. Baker may live to regret his intransigence on the District v. Area of benefit debate before he is finished. He is of course a devotee of the old Lux/Ruru partnership that dreamt it up in the first place, so will only let go under great pressure. I don't think that Leach will forgive him quickly, and I suspect that Hammond will hang him out to dry on it in the long run. He has become such a little helper, but he should remember his place, and when you have a policy that your immediate superiors consider "unsustainable", you had better start thinking of the alternatives.

As for Mr Ben Day - Communications and Economic Development guru with a higher degree from Massey in Management and International Business, obviously taken by correspondence if one can believe  the overlap with his Christchurch City Council employment indicated in his Linkedin website. Mr Day provided most of the back-up advice on almost every subject before the Council. He appears to be the white haired boy with all the answers, even if they are delivered in a rapid fire manner as may be expected from a communicator/marketer. You may guess that I was less than impressed with both his grasp of the facts, and his tendency to report decisions that he had taken that appeared to be well beyond his mandate. Also, I am always very suspicious of people who preface their statements with "In my professional opinion..." I hold to the traditional view that the only people entitled to call themselves 'professional' are those who are subject to legislated disciplines and oversight through membership. The Institute of Management and the Public Relations Institute do not qualify.

But I guess that Hammond has to have someone he can rely on to do this stuff - he probably correctly surmises that there are few others in the place that he can completely trust, and hence Mr Day's apparent 'personal assistant'/hatchet man role. Expect to see him taking a far more prominent role in the future - until he comes an inevitable cropper by overstepping the mark, either with Hammond, or Leach, or both. Certain councillors who shall go un-named are already unnerved by the guy.

You just cannot get away from the fact that the whole building is in a state of flux, with intrigue in every corner. It is alive with reports of short cuts, and illegal instructions being issued from the Mayor's office regarding all manner of activity around the Peninsula. Anyone who knows Leach seems to be able to get old scores settled, and decisions that displeased over the years reversed. That is no way to run an organisation, and it is only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost. 

As far as the remainder around the able are concerned, it was pretty much business as usual. Leach was absent for half of each day, apparently undergoing radiation treatment following the removal of a lymphoma a few weeks ago, and was clearly not on the ball, though still able to throw a few barbs in our direction, as usual. Though I must say that I did have a most pleasant discussion with him at one stage.  French is usually an enigma, but on this occasion distinguished himself with some really dumb questions, and positions - particularly on essential services. He did chair well in Leach's absence. Connors was feisty, and taking no prisoners - her revenge on the Mayor (in his absence it must be said) by overturning his sop to his developer mates was classic Brutus stuff, but her futile attempt at a preemptory strike against fluoride in Thames water was unsuccessful - clearly had not done her numbers, and she may have been surprised at the reaction had she had her way. It is not over by any means, but the 'nutters' will probably have their way in the end, unless 'pros' get their act together.

Haodley was only there in body - she appears to have lost interest in the entire outfit - far below her usual intellectual peer group, and boring her stiff. Jack Wells made ghastly points and held up proceedings at every opportunity. Bartley is quite beyond it, and just contributed hot air as usual - he makes grand gestures that get completely ignored by the chair, but he does not appear to notice. McLean and Fox were joined at the hip, and conferred constantly amongst themselves - heaven only knows what about, but it was clearly hilarious - they did not contribute a great deal, though McLean emitted a few words of wisdom on occasion. Tony Brljevich seemed consumed with Coromandel issues, and related everything to that. He is is okay, but he should keep out of the Thames fluoridation argument - it is none of his business - I suspect a religious, or similar cause in the background. Of the Board Chairs only Johnston injected himself into the debate at every opportunity with heavy advice that appeared long on dogma and cliche, and short on intelligence. Strat was absent too often to be of any value.. His plugs for Thames were mostly confused. Renton gave some well considered comments.

The whole outfit was full full of bonhomie, and good cheer, with a great deal of self congratulatory back slapping, but that has become par for the course. Debate as we commonly know it was almost totally absent. Leach laid down the law, and apart from the brief reaction from Connors, they all fell into line. I suppose you could say that they are a boring, conformist, and harmonious group who are very pleased with themselves, having got into this happy place by simply cutting two major capex expenditure groups (stormwater and IT), and borrowing an extra $20m.

It is easy to give the appearance of having achieved a magnificent result in this manner, and reflect this in lowered rate levels that are the only thing that concerns the majority of rate-payers. The staffing turmoil appears to go right over their heads, and they won't be around when the dust settles in about year three or four.

 

 

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Reader Comments (1)

Hammond seems to constantly need a shoulder to lean on, a sure sign of someone with little confidence, low self esteem, and unfortunately out of his depth. He is simply eager to please his employer. At his last council the shoulder was a deputy CE. As there is no such thing here (and it was a bit surprising to not see one emerge in the restructure), Ben Day has become the deputy CE in all but name. This seems to have arisen based solely on the fact that his office happens to be right next to the CE, so therefore the CE would have gone to him first to find out what was what when he first started - and of couse Day had no idea (and still doesnt to be honest). Staff with much better qualifications and experience for this role have already gone or if they are still there, have had the passion or motivation totally knocked out of them and have no desire to get closer to the action.

As for staff turmoil - boy did the change management lady get a serve from staff a couple of weeks ago, especially coalface staff. She had been told all was fine and everyone was on board with the changes by the CE - only to find this was not the case, and views were very forthrightly expressed by a good number. Senior staff will publicly support Hammond and the "inner circle", but privately most of them are over it, only hanging in because options for some are limited in the District, or they are staying solely for personal reasons (ie to feed the family) and are prepared to just go through the motions.

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGunna

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