Gore council chief executive fires back at bullying claims

Fri, Jun 9
Gore Mayor Ben Bell and Chief Executive Stephen Parry.

Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry has fired back at, and refuted allegations that he’s a bully and is responsible for creating a toxic workplace.

In a statement this morning, the chief executive called the claims of bullying “hurtful and stressful” for him and his staff.

He said that staff had been confronted with the accusations through the media and while socialising too.

Over the past few months, the council has been stuck in what seems to be never-ending turmoil, with tensions between Mayor Ben Bell and Parry spilling out into the public eye.

Following an extraordinary private council meeting about the rift between the two, several councillors called for Bell's resignation.

Culminating in a dramatic council meeting where a vote of no confidence in the mayor was proposed, things backfired on Parry, with the vote failing to go through amid protests supporting the mayor.

A petition calling for Parry to resign was also set up, garnering almost 1000 signatures in a day.

Accusations of bullying were also levelled at Parry, with former staffers saying he is responsible for a toxic and manipulative culture at the council.

One former staffer, Doug Walker, said he was “terrorised” by Parry, claiming the chief executive created false allegations against him and requested the IT manager search his emails.

Walker also said Parry tracked down his home UK, showing up unannounced during a visit.

This morning, Parry responded to the allegations levelled against him for the first time after choosing not to comment last month.

“The allegations have been extremely hurtful and stressful, yet staff have continued to act professionally and serve their community to the best of their ability,” he said.

“The council can not, nor would it, comment on issues of employment relating to past or present employees. It would also be inappropriate to speculate about the motivation behind recent allegations.”

He denied bullying in the workplace, saying: “There is a distinct difference between performance management and systemic bullying in the workplace.”

He also said no complaints of bullying from former “dissatisfied” staff had been upheld.

“As with any workplace – from small businesses to large corporations – there can be disharmony, even conflict. It would be naive to believe this hasn’t been the case at the council.

“The strength of an organisation is how it learns from these situations to build a cohesive, inclusive workplace.”

Parry said that during his appraisal process, staff were asked, “GDC is a good place to work” - it scored 4.5 out of 5, according to him.

He also said a similar survey found 75% of staffers believed the organisation had “effective governance and leadership in health and safety”.

Parry attached several comments from staff praising his work to the statement.

He closed by saying, “The council will not comment further on allegations about the workplace, instead focusing on supporting staff through this difficult time.”


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