Time For Some Analysis
Friday, March 7, 2014 at 4:19PM
Bill Barclay

It has been a tumultuous week within the walls of the Castle, and on reflection, it seems to me that it may well be time for some careful analysis of what led up to the action taken in regard to the position of IT Manager, and in particular, the atmospherics that pertain within the establishment that allowed this situation to occur.

I will be quite up-front in stating that I do not think, and never have thought that David Hammond was the right person to bring into Steve Ruru's position. Equally, I do not believe that Ruru had any reason to believe that he had done enough to warrant another term on his contract. I believe that he was a weak CEO, and that he followed a laissez faire policy with regard to personnel that enabled some incompetent individuals to manipulate the machinery of Council to their own advantage, and to hide their failings. Examples abound, none of which I intend to explore in this post, though I will mention the mind-boggling, almost unique five week leave provision.

What concerned me was reports that emanated from Ruapehu of Hammonds eccentric approach to management, along with operating a system of favouring certain individuals and policies that fitted his particular outlook on life - one that appeared to be closely tied to his apparent adherence to fundamentalist Christian values. His entry on 'Linkedin' that coincidently arrived in my mailbox this week confirms the likelihood of this interpretation based on his work as a missionary in the Middle East (he claims to speak Arabic as a result), and attendance at Southern Cross University - a private Gold Coast institution with close religious affiliations, but modest academic attainment, to obtain his MBA. The bible apparently features prominently in his office, and although this signifies nothing, it raises a caution with me.  

I was first drawn to the possibility that this man had an agenda when I watched the totally inappropriate assistance he provided to anti-proponents in the fluoride debate, based primarily on his experience in Ruapehu where  a concerted effort by this well organised minority pressure group managed to have fluoride removed from the Tauramanui water supply. This was simply an indication to me that the man was not to be trusted, and that he was capable of running a hidden agenda. 

What I have observed over the last three years following what Leach obviously considered his fortuitous application for Ruru's position was the arrival of a number of his (Hammond's) camp followers from Ruepehu, the departure of a considerable number of extremely competent second level management staff (on what is believed to have been substantial settlements), and the steady decline in staff morale - yes, I do have contact with a considerable number of same one way or another, and the fears that have been expressed to me of being caught expressing a view to anyone outside of the Castle has been indicative of a deep malaise within the organisation.

As for Foster - it was perfectly obvious from day one that there was an inappropriate relationship between the Council's IT department and local software firms - Track24 and later Guru. There was a crossover of staff that would inevitably lead to conflict of interest, and he should have had it made perfectly clear to him right from the outset that he needed a Chinese Wall between himself and every business enterprise with whom the Council was transacting business. It has to be said that this situation predates Hammond, but he should have sorted it immediately he perceived a problem. Instead, both he and Day appeared to foster (PFTP) the relationship in order to support local enterprise - always a dangerous policy, and in this case likely to lead to both inter-personal, and 'best practice' issues.

I was on the management scene for more than forty years, and I can say with fairly good authority that there is nothing taught in MBA courses that assists in maintaining a happy productive workplace. The news that the action taken against a senior manager was left to Hammond's assistant Ben Day will do nothing to increase his respect amongst remaining staff within the building. In fact, it will simply serve to increase their hatred of  Hammond, his acolyte Day, and the processes he has put in place since his arrival. Murray may have committed all manner of indiscretions - we have no way of knowing precisely what brought about his removal, but he is a highly competent operator who has a splendid record - far more so than Hammond or Day, has given long and valuable service to our Council, and he deserved better than that.

As I have said previously, I am not about to defend or attack the action itself - I know far too little of the circumstances to do that, but I believe that I am perfectly entitled to comment on the background and process. Finally. I simply draw attention to nine or so comments on my earlier post that draw attention in no uncertain manner to the thinking of past and present employees, and others to the manner in which this matter has been dealt with.

I intend to leave this stream open in order that others may express themselves freely and without fear. It is critically important that matters of this nature are discussed openly. Councils have a habit of falling apart because of the advent of inappropriate and incompetent management, and ours is no exception - the quicker that matters are brought to a head, the better. It will not happen through the Council itself where there is a overweaning loyaly to Leach, and unwillingness or incompetence to take any interest in what is happening behind the scenes. They will run a mile, and continue to give preferment to Leach/Hammond favourites.

 

 

 

Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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