Deputies question Charlie Parker’s glowing appraisal
A PERFORMANCE appraisal declaring States chief executive Charlie Parker’s first year in office to have been ‘exemplary’ has been called into question by prominent Scrutiny politicians.
Deputy Kirsten Morel has said that, because the appraisal of Mr Parker’s performance was undertaken by a consultant who had worked with him and appraised him when he was chief executive of Westminster City Council, the resulting report inevitably appeared to be ‘worth less’ than it should have done.
Deputy Morel’s colleague on Scrutiny’s OneGov review panel, Deputy Rob Ward, added that the report was ‘so generic that it gives very little indication of what has been achieved so far’ and, due to the fact that it was completed in January but has only now been made publicly available, feels ‘out of date’ and like a ‘token gesture towards transparency’.
Dr John Nicholson, the UK-based business psychologist who wrote the 35-page document for a fee of £16,000, based his findings on interviews with 18 people in Jersey.
These comprised directors general and directors at the very top of the civil service, who were appointed to serve under Mr Parker and, in some cases, have worked with him in previous roles, as well as a handful of ‘politicians and some leading figures in the community’.
Deputy Morel added that a likely consequence of relying on views gathered through interviews with such a select group of people was that the report ‘reads like a fan’s report’.
However, Chief Minister John Le Fondré, who robustly endorsed the appraisal by adding that he was ‘more than satisfied’ with Mr Parker’s performance as chief executive, said that he was ‘absolutely satisfied with the impartiality and integrity’ of the work.
That view was echoed by Dr Nicholson, who said he did not believe that his previous associations with Mr Parker had any adverse impact on the report’s findings or the perception of them.
‘Wherever it happens, this is a factor,’ he said. ‘You get old guard and you get new guard, and you get a suspicion that there is a kitchen cabinet or an in-group and an out-group.
‘As it happens, I don’t think that is an issue here, but it would have been very surprising had it not been an issue when it [the appointment of Mr Parker’s interims] happened. The whole question of bringing people in from the mainland is a huge issue on Jersey – we always knew that, and it is as you’d expect it to be.’
But Deputy Morel said the perception issue of Dr Nicholson undertaking the work detracted from its value.
‘In the context of this work being done by Dr Nicholson, unfortunately that does take away from the validity of the appraisal,’ he said.
He added: ‘It does mean that this appraisal is worth less than it should have been. At times, unfortunately, especially in the executive summary, it does read a bit like a fan’s appraisal. Again, that makes me question the validity of it as a genuine appraisal.’
Deputy Ward added: ‘I am concerned that these are generic comments made on the basis of generic targets which, at this stage, give very little indication of what has been achieved so far. We need to see some specifics before we can make judgments.
‘Unless you have specific performance indicators with measurable outcomes, you’ll only ever get these kinds of generic comments.’
When Senator Le Fondré was asked why he chose Dr Nicholson for the work, knowing that such perception issues might result, and why he had not proactively announced this previous connection when he made a statement in November saying he was ‘delighted to have secured’ Dr Nicholson for the job, the Chief Minister said that Dr Nicholson’s previous clients were listed on his company’s website and ‘are therefore available for anyone to view’.
He added: ‘I met with Dr Nicholson when I became Chief Minister and assured myself of his professionalism, integrity and impartiality. I was fully aware that he worked with Westminster Council, as well as with many other major organisations around the world.’
In November, Senator John Le Fondré announced that he was ‘delighted to have secured someone of the calibre of Dr Nicholson’ to conduct the performance appraisal of Mr Parker, citing Dr Nicholson’s ‘outstanding track record of working at the highest level of business and government’.
However, when the JEP asked why he had not also mentioned that this track record included having conducted previous job appraisals with Mr Parker, the Chief Minister declined to answer.