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Charlie Parker Approved Statement About Own NED Role

A statement released to the media incorrectly stating the Deputy Chief Minister had approved Charlie Parker's non-executive role was 'considered approved' by the Chief Executive himself.

That has been revealed in a Freedom of Information request made by Channel 103.

We asked for the report provided to the Chief Minister with the findings of a recent investigation into how an erroneous press statement was issued on Tuesday 27th October 2020 saying both the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister had approved the States CEO's non-executive position with NewRiver.

It subsequently emerged Senator Lyndon Farnham had not given consent and had 'expressed concerns'.

The saga led to island's top civil servant stepping down and a vote of no confidence in the Chief Minister, which Senator John Le Fondré survived.

The information we requested reveals the timeline of actions within the Communications Unit in response to questions from journalists about the £50,000 a year NED role.

It shows that the erroneous statement provided to reporters was not signed off by any ministers, and 'approval was considered as obtained through the Chief Executive' as the Press Office had asked how he wanted 'to proceed'. 

Mr Parker has supplied information used to prepare 'a short, draft statement' that was 'amended during several short meetings'.

The statement was released almost 28 hours after the first media enquiry.

"The Press Office protocol requires appropriate approval from senior officials and ministers. As there was no ministerial quote in this response to media queries, approval was considered as obtained through the Chief Executive.

The Chief Executive did call and speak with the Chief Minister, and he spoke to Assistant Chief Minister Buchanan about the NED role. He also called the Deputy Chief Minister but did not get an answer. He spoke to the Deputy Chief Minister on Wednesday morning, though the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister had already spoken about the matter on Tuesday evening.

The Chief Executive has subsequently acknowledged, in the circumstances, it would have been appropriate to have spoken to Ministers before the statement was shared widely to ensure they were in agreement.'

In an interview with Channel 103 in November, the Chief Minister said there would be an internal investigation into the matter.

"It will be a combination of myself and Richard Buchanan as Connetable of St Ouen, who is one of my Assistant Ministers, who'll be directing officers to produce the documentation for that review.

"Once we've gone through it, if we're not satisfied, then we'll have to go further. We will be pouring over it in a very fine level of detail."

Since the episode, press releases to the media now include details of which Ministers have signed them off.

In response to a question to the government about the outcome of the internal review, we received the following:

"The internal review has concluded and has been provided to the Public Accounts Committee and published as a Freedom of Information response. The process for approving news releases and media statements has been strengthened, allowing for a clearer audit trail and approval process.

This is due to be further discussed by Ministers shortly and will be finalised after that."

The recruitment process is underway for an Interim Chief Executive to replace Mr Parker.

We are told interviews of shortlisted candidates are due to take place in the next week, with an announcement following once the appointment is agreed.

The government says it currently can't divulge the number of candidates or how many are from Jersey or elsewhere, as it remains a 'live' recruitment process.

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