This newspaper has been passed a letter which throws new light on the circumstances surrounding his departure by revealing what happened at a crucial stage of the saga, and which played a key part in the £500,000 pay-off given to Mr Parker.
In the letter, SEB vice-chairman Constable Richard Buchanan told Mr Parker that he was ‘choosing to focus on [his] personal goals’ to the ‘detriment of the needs and wishes of the Government of Jersey and the wider public service’ and instructed him to stand down as a non-executive director at real-estate firm New River.
Mr Parker left his position as government chief executive following revelations that he had accepted a board position with New River. At the time, Mr Parker had only secured verbal permission from Chief Minister John Le Fondré to accept the job and had not secured the written authorisation from his employer – the SEB – required in his contract.
The saga erupted again this week, as it was revealed that Mr Parker had been given a £500,000 severance package upon leaving his role as Jersey’s top civil servant, with several backbench politicians questioning what chain of events allowed the former chief executive to secure such a large payout.
The letter – dated four days before the no-confidence debate in the Chief Minister – reveals that the SEB granted Mr Parker written permission for his second role. Mr Buchanan states that it is ‘within the gift’ of the SEB to provide permission for Mr Parker to pursue outside interests and also to withdraw that permission should public confidence in the employer be damaged. However, Mr Buchanan reaffirms that the SEB was ‘not minded to withdraw’ that approval and, in doing so, effectively gave Mr Parker consent to continue his NED role.
Despite this, in the same letter, Mr Buchanan goes on to state: ‘We see the only course of action that will satisfy the board is for you to resign from your position as a non-executive director of New River.
‘Please therefore treat this letter as a formal instruction on behalf of the employer that you will resign from the NED role and confirm in writing to me by 9am on 9 November that you have taken the necessary steps to effect this.’
The vote of no-confidence in the Chief Minister took place on 10 November.
It is understood that Mr Parker believed that, with written permission, he was under no obligation to resign from New River but that defying the instruction to do so would make his position with the government untenable.
In the letter, Mr Buchanan also pointed to the reputational damage the saga was inflicting on the government, as ‘public confidence in the employer is demonstrably being weakened’.
A clause in Mr Parker’s government contract stated that he should not ‘subordinate [his] duty to [his] private interests nor put [himself] in a position where [his] duty and [his] private interests conflict, or where public confidence in the conduct of the employer would be weakened’.
The letter also reveals that Mr Parker believed his resignation from NewRiver could have an impact on the share price of the company and his own reputation.
Mr Buchanan said: ‘Your letter states that a decision to relinquish your NED position would be an admission of wrongdoing and have a permanent and deleterious impact on your reputation for probity and integrity. We do not accept that analysis.’
He added: ‘To date, our understanding is that you have been verbally invited (and declined) to resign the NED role on several occasions. In doing so you are choosing to focus on your personal goals and development and the potential impact on the market value of a listed company, to the detriment of the needs and wishes of the Government of Jersey and the wider public service. The fact that you are being forced to choose between two competing positions underlines the inherent conflict which has arisen.’
Earlier this week, when details of Mr Parker’s severance payout was revealed, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Lynn Pamment, said that the £500,000 payment went beyond the former chief executive’s contractual entitlement. But, she added, that this was less than the government might have been forced to pay out had Mr Parker pursued claims against the SEB and incurred the cost of defending those claims.
When asked by the JEP on Thursday about the payout, Senator Le Fondré said that it represented a ‘reasonable outcome’, given potential claims against the government Mr Parker could have made.