19 Sep 2013

Sacked council worker fights for compensation

12:56 pm on 19 September 2013

The lawyer representing a sacked Whangarei District Council employee says his client is seeking compensation.

Jan Walters, who was the personal assistant to the mayor and the council's chief executive, was fired after she signed a nomination form for former Whangarei mayor, Stan Semenoff, who is making another bid for the mayoralty.

Councillors at a special meeting on Wednesday decided to appoint an independent review team to investigate the dismissal.

Ms Walters' lawyer Andrew Holgate told Morning Report his client had a right to participate in a democratic process and more questions need to be answered about chief executive Mark Simpson's actions.

He says Ms Walters wants compensation for hurt and humiliation and the council's failure to act in good faith.

Mr Holgate says reinstatement of her job is not an option because the relationship is beyond salvage.

Ms Walters says the council's decision to scrutinise her sacking is a welcome development but she is disappointed Mr Simpson was not suspended.

She says while Mr Simpson sacked her for an alleged lack of neutrality, he allowed his other assistant to do promotional work for another candidate, the council's finance chair.

Review panel

Councillor Crichton Christie is questioning the independence of the panel set up to carry out review.

The panel will be made up of three councillors - Phil Halse, Jeroen Jongejens and John Williamson - and a yet to be appointed independent chair.

Mr Christie, who's also standing for mayor, says the review should be done by an independent person with no connection to the chief executive or council.

However, other council sources say Mr Simpson's employment contract states any dispute must be dealt with by a review committee of the council.

The council has approached two people to act as the independent chair - both of them Aucklanders.