Salinger a 'stranger to truth', ERA told

Sacked climate scientist Jim Salinger has today been variously accused of being unethical, disingenuous and less than truthful at an employment relations hearing.

Dr Salinger is seeking compensation through the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) after claiming he was unjustifiably dismissed by his former employer, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa).

He was dismissed for allegedly ignoring a Niwa policy against speaking publicly without prior approval.

Under cross-examination from Niwa's lawyer Peter Churchman, Dr Salinger disputed evidence from some of the Niwa staff.

He denied Mr Churchman's proposition that he had been "unethical" in what he said to reporters prior to the ERA hearing beginning.

He also rejected Mr Churchman's suggestion that he was "a stranger to the truth" over several of his claims, replying "that's your proposal".

Niwa sacked Dr Salinger, a scientist of 35 years who had worked for Niwa since its inception in 1992, over three alleged breaches of its code regarding media conduct.

Dr Salinger today told ERA member Leon Robinson that he admitted a breach over a Radio New Zealand interview in February this year.

But he denied he breached the policy over two contacts he had with TVNZ this year. He said he believed the policy stopped him from making statements but not from contacting media by phone.

Dr Salinger said one of those contacts, a call to One News weatherman Jim Hickey about rain he saw on the West Coast while on holiday, was a call to a friend made as an individual rather than as an official Niwa spokesman.

He said the other call to a One News reporter was followed up by him seeking approval from a staff member to have an interview.

Mr Churchman said Dr Salinger had been disingenuous about handing Mr Robinson a media release from last year which reviewed climate patterns when Niwa was unhappy about him commenting to TV3 on predictions for the following season, for which another scientist was the spokesman.

Dr Salinger said he only spoke to TV3 about the climate statistics and not the seasonal predictions, and suggested that the TV3 reporter must in their voiceover have added those details , which had been available for three days.

Mr Robinson also heard accounts today of disputes other staff had with Dr Salinger, though they were not among the reasons he was dismissed.

Dr Salinger is not seeking his job back but does want compensation for lost income up to 2012, along with $104,000 lost superannuation money and $50,000 in compensation for humiliation and loss of dignity.

The hearing is expected to take a week.

- NZPA

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