The disgraced National MP Aaron Gilmore has finally fallen on his sword, but could the situation have been managed better? HRM Online asked Hilary Cater, human resources manager at Gentrack, and Steve Punter, owner of STA training, what they would have done were they the National Party’s (hypothetical) HR director.
Responding to the question of whether what MPs get up to outside of office hours is relevant to their job performance, Cater said ‘absolutely’. “Like any business, their conduct is a reflection of the organisation and its values,” she said. And by allegedly attempting to use his position as an MP to his advantage, he has brought National and the role of the MP into disrepute, Cater explained.
Punter was more circumspect. “From an employer’s point of view, you would want to know, was he wearing a uniform with ‘Nats’ all over it, which clearly identified him as a National Party employee?,” he said.
One of the first priorities, according to Cater, would have been to thoroughly investigate the situation. “You need to do your homework – investigating the situation to gather the facts would be a priority along with putting this information to Gilmore in person,” she said.
While it was difficult to say how one should proceed after such an investigation, since it would have depended on Gilmore’s response, Cater said it would largely be a question of ‘trust’. “If the employment relationship had eroded to the point where the prime minister just could not trust him anymore … I don’t believe you would have any other choice but to present him with a final warning or even instant dismissal,” she said. Cater added that there should be ‘zero tolerance’ for the sort of behaviour that was alleged.
However, the situation may have been different, according to Punter, if Gilmore had been any ‘Joe Blogs’ from ‘the back of beyond’. “He hasn’t done anything that I would consider enough to bring about an instant dismissal,” Punter said. Performance counselling and a first warning might have been in order.
But for Cater, the text messages between Gilmore and his dinner companion to be the ‘final nail in the coffin’. “Any further allegations or information which came to light which showed that Gilmore had not been honest would make it incredibly difficult for him to continue in his role,” she said.
When asked whether the lies that he seems to have told Key about the incident would amount to a breach of trust that could warrant sacking, Punter demurred. “He actually put a spin on it rather than lying … I would have thought that it was an admirable attribute for a politician,” he said.
Whatever the case, Punter thought that more focus should be given to selection criteria for MPs. “Should we, in fact, be thinking for parliamentarians, an alcohol resilience test as part of the recruiting?,” he joked.