Ministers decide that Charlie Parker should not have ‘second job’

A NON-EXECUTIVE directorship taken on by Charlie Parker is not compatible with his role as government chief executive, ministers have decided.

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst and Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham headed to the States Chamber yesterday after a crisis Council of Ministers meeting on Sunday night to discuss government chief executive Charlie Parker's secondary role.
External Relations Minister Ian Gorst and Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham headed to the States Chamber yesterday after a crisis Council of Ministers meeting on Sunday night to discuss government chief executive Charlie Parker's secondary role.

That decision, made at Sunday night’s extraordinary crisis meeting of the Council of Ministers, was revealed by the Chief Minister yesterday in the States Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister is now facing a no-confidence motion for his handling of the affair, led by Scrutiny chairwoman Senator Kristina Moore. Six States Members – Assistant Economic Development and Health Minister Steve Pallett, Deputies Louise Doublet and Steve Ahier and Constables John Le Bailly, Mike Jackson and Sadie Le Sueur-Rennard have backed the motion.

Senator John Le Fondré addressed Members yesterday afternoon, giving a statement about Mr Parker’s role, which came to light as a result of questions asked by the JEP last week.

In questions following the statement, the Chief Minister also confirmed that neither he nor the Deputy Chief Minister saw or signed off a press statement issued last Tuesday in which it was claimed incorrectly that the permission had been given. The Senator said that communications protocols had, without question, not been followed. He said that a full inquiry was under way.

However, he insisted that there were no conflicts of interest and that Mr Parker remained committed to his role serving Jersey. He added that he was satisfied that the NED role could be carried out in Mr Parker’s own time when he was on annual leave.

As reported last week, Mr Parker accepted the non-executive position on the board of UK real estate firm New River in September. However, it has since emerged that he did not receive the appropriate written permissions to accept the role – instead receiving only a verbal agreement from Chief Minister John Le Fondré.

The Tuesday press release sent to the Island’s media stated that the appointment had been cleared with both the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham.

Senator Le Fondré admitted during yesterday’s States sitting that neither he, nor Senator Farnham, saw the statement before its release but he declined to comment on who authorised its publication. The Chief Minister added that the press statement was ‘as far as I’m aware a matter for the Communications Department’. Mistakes, he said, had been made.

The Chief Minister said that there were ‘protocols in place’ which were designed to ensure ministerial sign-off on statements relating to a particular department or minister but that ‘in this instance the protocol very clearly failed’.

In the States yesterday, Senator Le Fondré said: ‘The chief executive has accepted that there were errors, made by him, in seeking agreement to the appointment. He has met with the States Employment Board and has offered them his sincere apologies for his oversight. He has also apologised to me. I have also apologised to the SEB and we have agreed that the shortcomings that led to this situation will be corrected immediately.

‘I also recognise the anger that has arisen among Members, ministers and the public. The Council of Ministers has been briefed on this position recognising the heightened level of concern about this appointment. The Council has agreed that I should meet with the chief executive at the earliest opportunity to relay their concerns and allow the chief executive to respond to them.’

Under the terms of his contract, Mr Parker must secure written approval from his employer – the SEB – before he takes a directorship role. The SEB were unaware of Mr Parker’s appointment until it was reported last week. Senator Le Fondré said the failure to secure written confirmation was a ‘rare lapse of focus’.

The Chief Minister added that while ministers on the whole supported Mr Parker in his role, they felt that the ‘non-executive role is not compatible with the demands of his duties at this time’.

Senator Le Fondré also criticised those seeking to make ‘political gains’ at a time when government attention should be on ‘critical Brexit-related matters integral to our future economy’ as well as the pandemic response and the Government Plan debate.

He added: ‘I believe some Members would like to capitalise on this opportunity for political gain and to see the chief executive, myself, or the government fall. I believe that this type of behaviour would result in a manifestly disproportionate outcome given the circumstances.

‘It is for Members to consider if they really feel that such a move is in the interests of the Island.’

In the report accompanying her proposition, Senator Moore said the intention was to restore faith in the leadership of the Island and to call for the observance of good governance, greater accountability and transparency. ‘A vote pour will be a vote for values and integrity,’ she said.

As well as posing a series of questions about Mr Parker’s role with New River, the report accused the Chief Minister of being unable to hold senior civil servants to account, or to recognise and address problems promptly and effectively. Senator Le Fondré’s failure to communicate effectively, openly and transparently was also cited, along with his ‘lack of a clear vision for the future of Jersey’.

Senator Moore said that Islanders continued to lack trust in the current leadership and did not have confidence that they could lead Jersey through the troubled waters presented by Covid-19, Brexit and a global economic crisis, as well as other ongoing challenges such as delivering a population policy, affordable housing and increased standards of living.

The non-confidence motion is expected to be debated within the next fortnight, which could be as early as this week.

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