A former Crown Research Institute boss who was investigated for bullying behaviour received a payout of $300,000 after his resignation.
Tom Richardson stood down as CEO of Agresearch last October after holding the role for nine years.
The Herald revealed at the time Richardson's resignation came after employment lawyer Maria Dew QC began an investigation into complaints of bullying - at the request of the Agresearch board.
That investigation remains shrouded in secrecy. It is not known whether Richardson was cleared by Dew or whether his resignation came during the investigation or after it was completed.
Agresearch's annual report, tabled on Monday, showed he received a termination payment of $292,000.
Chairman Dr Paul Reynolds said the payment was consistent with contractual obligations between Richardson and the board. He did not say whether any or how much of the payment was discretionary.
The Herald contacted Richardson for comment. In a text message apparently intended for Agresearch but sent to the Herald, he said: "As expected some months ago, [Agresearch] annual report tabled last week. Assume I respond that as a former employee I have confidentiality agreements and thus won't be commenting?"
He later told the Herald that he was "still bound by my confidentiality obligations with Agresearch".
The Government and the States Services Commissioner (now the Public Service Commissioner) have urged restraint from the public sector over salaries and bonuses for senior staff.
Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins changed the law in 2018 to ban performance bonuses for CEOs.
Asked for comment, a Government spokesperson said that as a Crown Research Institute the Agresearch board was accountable for day-to-day operations and decisions, including employment matters.
"That said, all Crown entities are publicly owned," the spokesperson said. "The Government and the New Zealand public expect Crown entities to uphold the highest standards of transparency."
National Party public services spokesman Mark Mitchell said he did not know the circumstances of the case but if a public sector CEO was found to have bullied staff there would be an expectation they would not receive a payout when they departed.
Employment lawyer Max Whitehead said a termination payment could be made up of entitlements such as leave or superannuation, but could also include bonuses and discretionary payments.
He said company boards often preferred the simplicity of a one-off payment when a senior executive was leaving an organisation.
"Even if the employee is guilty of some wrongdoing, going through the process of discipline or even termination is riddled with so many potential problems that quite often the employer would prefer to pay money to avoid that process."
At the time of Richardson's resignation last August, staff were told he was leaving for family reasons.
He had earlier been investigated for bullying behaviour and several current and former staff members were interviewed as part of the investigation, sources told the Herald last year.
The findings and even the existence of a report have never been confirmed by Agresearch or the Government.
Reynolds said last year that the organisation could not comment on matters related to past or present employment agreements because the details were "personal and private".
The Agresearch annual report also shows one person at the institute earned between $830,000 to $840,000 in the last year - nearly $200,000 more than the CEO's previous salary.
Agresearch said this reflected the payment made to Richardson, and also the transition period in which Richardson was seeing out his notice while acting CEO Tony Hickmott was taking over.
Originally from the United States, Richardson has lived in New Zealand for more than 25 years. Before joining Agresearch, he spent 17 years at the forestry-focused research institute Scion.