24 Nov 2014

Bennett says Rennie has been held to account

7:20 pm on 24 November 2014

State Services minister Paula Bennett insists the State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has been held to account over his handling of the Roger Sutton case.

Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Mr Sutton resigned as head of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority after sexually harassing an employee and there have been calls for Mr Rennie to stand down.

This followed Mr Rennie's decision to let Mr Sutton tell his side of the story at the press conference announcing his resignation.

Ms Bennett said Mr Rennie had faced up to the errors of judgement he made in allowing Mr Sutton to speak.

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She said Mr Rennie had always had the complainant foremost in his mind and if she did not think that she would be making a different call about how he had handled the matter.

"At the end of the day what he was committed to was seeing that Mr Sutton had the opportunity to resign which was the best outcome."

She was rejecting calls from the Green Party for an inquiry into Mr Rennie's handling of the case.

Ms Bennett said while her staff were made aware of the fact Mr Sutton would be speaking at the press conference they did not pass this information on to her and she would not expect them to go into this level of detail anyway.

Iain Rennie, left, and Roger Sutton, who  announced his resignation

Iain Rennie, left, and Roger Sutton at the announcement of Mr Sutton's resignation Photo: RNZ

She was not able to say if she would have called a halt to things if she had have been made aware he was going to speak.

During the press conference Roger Sutton said he had called female employees honey and sweetie and hugged them and that this was wrong.

This was despite the confidentiality surrounding the case which prevented either party from revealing details.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie. Photo: RNZ

Ms Bennett said the whole day was handled badly and there was no part of the press conference she could defend.

She said it was inappropriate at every level.

Asked whether the handling of the case would discourage others from coming forward with sexual harassment complaints, Mrs Bennett said it should not because the case was taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

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