The wife of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority boss Roger Sutton is struggling to comprehend how her husband's "hugs and jokes" have led to him quitting over a sexual harassment claim.

Roger Sutton resigned as chief executive of Cera today after the State Services Commission investigated a complaint that he harassed a senior female staffer.

The allegations centred around Mr Sutton giving hugs and making inappropriate jokes and comments.

The father-of-three walked in to a press conference hand-in-hand with wife Jo Malcolm to announce his resignation, of his "own free choice", effective from January 31 next year.

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"Hugs, jokes ... I do do those things, and I've hurt somebody with that behaviour and I'm very, very sorry about that," Mr Sutton said.

"But I am who I am. I have called women 'honey' and 'sweetie', and that is wrong. That's a sexist thing to do, and I'm really sorry."

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Ms Malcolm was shocked by the chain of events that led to his resignation.

"It's been hideous. He's a really good man," she said.

"Why have his hugs and jokes been misinterpreted? I have no idea. But he's a touchy-feely person. In Christchurch, we hug everybody and I can't understand it.

"He's a really good man - he's far nicer than I am. He's far more compassionate than I am, but he's also really silly. And that's kind of what I love about him.

"I think he kind of forgot that he was the leader of the public service and he's too informal, he's too relaxed ... but that's who he is. That's what makes him amazing, and why his staff, the Cera staff, love him."

She supported his decision to resign.

"I want him to be with us. I've been raising my boys on my own," she said.

"I feel really sad for Christchurch people who are gutted. He's not a victim."

While the State Services Commission's report found Mr Sutton's conduct did not always meet the standard expected of public service leaders, it did not recommend dismissal.

Commissioner Iain Rennie said he accepted Mr Sutton's resignation, and that the police were not involved.

"I expect high standards of Public Service chief executives and I take any complaints of inappropriate conduct very seriously," Mr Rennie said.

"Every state servant must be able to work in a safe environment where they are treated with professionalism and respect."

The employee who raised the complaint is still with Cera.

Mr Rennie met her today to apologise for the "hurt and distress" she experienced.

Arrangements for an acting chief executive and the recruitment process for a new one will be advised shortly.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said he was disappointed by Mr Sutton's resignation and acknowledged his contribution as Cera's chief executive.

In a joint statement, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Christchurch City Council chief executive Karleen Edwards expressed sadness at the loss of "a stand-out leader for our city and region".

Labour's Canterbury recovery spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said Mr Sutton had been a very real asset to the city and his decision to resign and spend more time with family was completely understandable.

"He will have been under huge stress during the seven week investigation. I trust that Roger's skills, commitment and contribution to our region will not be lost as a result of today's decision."