While his loyal admirers such as Cr Elliott are sure to be giving him personal farewell gifts, we hope Mr Dougherty is not getting anything in the way of a golden handshake at ratepayers’ expense.

Long time Kapiti ratepayers will remember that after being elected as Mayor in 2007, it didn’t take long for Jenny Rowan to tell Mr Dougherty’s predecessor Leigh Halstead to go, because his ideas on what the district needed differed from hers.  And go he did — at a cost to ratepayers of $325,000. But her desired replacement has since cost Kapiti ratepayers many times more than that, as has been detailed in several posts on here.

This was written by the Dominion Post editor in January 2008.

Last weekend, Kapiti Coast ratepayers learned that the district council’s most recent chief executive, who served in the role for just nine months before resigning, left with a golden handshake of generous proportions. Leigh Halstead, formerly a property valuer, has walked away with a cheque for $280,000 and a new Peugeot 407 worth $45,000.

If this newspaper had not done its job — bringing into daylight that which others would keep buried — the good citizens of the coast would not know that the man the previous council thought worth poaching went with bulging pockets. That is because the process that saw Mr Halstead leave almost before he had his feet under the big desk in the corner office was to have been a secret deal.

New Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowan should be embarrassed, given that she campaigned for the job last year on transparency. She says, apparently grumpy at the bind she finds herself in, that she believes aspects of employment law need reviewing.

She is right, but they won’t be changed by this Government. In the meantime, perhaps the council can seek a contribution to its costs from the recruitment company that found Mr Halstead for it.

The Halstead situation — and the departure of other chief executives and senior staff of government-aligned agencies — is a good reminder to whichever party leads the government from November that ordinary New Zealanders on ordinary incomes find payouts such as this obnoxious. They were, of course, something Prime Minister Helen Clark vowed to end when she took office almost nine years ago.

First, it is obscene that many employers find it cheaper to pay off an employee whom they deem unsuitable than take the matter through the Employment Court. Second, it is equally obscene that senior executives, whose inflated pay rates are meant to acknowledge their sometimes precarious employment term, can claim even more money when they walk out the door.

Third, it is worse that lawyers should strive to keep the Halstead deal, and others like it, quiet. Let’s be clear here. No one paid from the public purse, be they in the public sector or local government, should be allowed to argue that their salary package, and any money thrown at them as they leave the building, is secret. It cannot be.

This is public money.

Those on the periphery of the state sector — crown research institutes, state-owned enterprises, crown-owned companies — might try to argue that, along with private and listed companies, their remuneration rates should remain their business. To the extent that the Companies Act allows it, maybe fair enough. They are not paid directly from the public purse and company directors are responsible to shareholders and the public, when necessary, for the salary package negotiated for their chief executives.

But it can never be true for those in the public’s service. It is taxpayers and ratepayers who are forced, via tax law, to meet their salaries, plus perquisites, and it is they who are entitled to know where their money is going.

How else can they judge if they are getting value for money and if politicians who defend them are worth re-electing?