A former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority worker has blasted the official investigation into accusations of sexual harassment by former chief executive Roger Sutton as "incompetent".

Mr Sutton resigned yesterday after a complaint that he harassed a senior female staff member by giving hugs and making inappropriate jokes and comments.

Former communications adviser Tina Nixon questioned whether "people really think that a hug was what it was all about".

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"No woman in the public service should currently feel confident that any complaint would be investigated professionally and without bias," said Ms Nixon, who left Cera earlier this year to become economic development programme manager at Masterton District Council.

Cera operated the most "robust environment" she had experienced, in having worked in "half dozen or so" government departments.

Therefore, she said people needed to "get past the breathtaking PR snow job".

The woman at the centre of the incident had done more for the post-earthquake Christchurch community "than many people I know", Ms Nixon said.

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CERA chief has resigned following a sexual harassment complaint against him, admitting his actions were hurtful but he never meant any harm. State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said the commission had carried out an investigation into Mr Sutton's conduct following a complaint from a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) staff member. The allegations, which surfaced at the weekend, accused Mr Sutton of harassing a senior female staffer. Sutton is alleged to have made inappropriate jokes and comments towards the woman, as well as giving her a hug.

She criticised the State Services Commission for its "useless" investigation into the claims, especially after the complainant had "jeopardised her career" by laying them in the first place. "I for one have no confidence in their ability to conduct any unbiased inquiry after today," said Ms Nixon.

"People don't resign over hugs."

'You're telling the story, honey' - Sutton interview from the archive


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

"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."

His wife said the investigation process had been "hideous", and her husband's "hugs and jokes have been misinterpreted".