Infrastructure Minister denies being ‘aggressive’ during ‘tense’ government meeting

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THE Infrastructure Minister has denied being ‘aggressive’ in a government meeting, but admitted it was ‘tense’.

Tensions had been brewing for at least six months between Chief Minister Kristina Moore and Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet before their public spat, recently released documents have revealed.

Deputy Binet wrote to Deputy Moore in October to say he felt ‘extremely stressed’ by her approach during a meeting, while notes from a ‘difficult meeting’ last month – published yesterday by the Chief Minister – described Deputy Binet as ‘aggressive’.

Responding to Deputy Moore’s accusations that he ‘acted in an aggressive manner, both in language and actions’, Deputy Binet said ‘that’s not how I see it’, although he agreed it was a ‘tense meeting’.

He added: ‘Perhaps it is easy to confuse the mood of a meeting where one is confronted with some rather unpalatable truths.’

In a letter to Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel chair Deputy Sam Mézec, whose group requested the information, Deputy Moore wrote that she deemed it appropriate to publish her correspondences with Deputy Binet following references to the exchanges in this week’s States sitting.

The Chief Minister and the Infrastructure Minister clashed publicly recently after Deputy Binet issued a sharp critique of Deputy Moore’s handling of former chief executive Suzanne Wylie’s departure, describing the atmosphere at Broad Street as ‘tense and less than happy’ and Mrs Wylie’s exit as an ‘own goal’ for the government.

As part of the release of information, Deputy Moore published her notes from the ‘difficult meeting’ with Deputy Binet – which she says left her ‘feeling very unsettled’.

Meanwhile, in his October letter, Deputy Binet criticised what he said was a lack of courtesy towards other members of the team.

He wrote: ‘On each occasion I left feeling extremely stressed, to the extent that, as a consequence of your approach to me at the last of these, I had to leave before the meeting commenced and cancel all other meetings for the remainder of the day.

‘I should add, that instead of catching up on my work over the weekend, my state of mind was such that I felt unable to function constructively as I wrestled with the dilemma of how best I should deal with the situation.’

Deputy Binet also said staff deserved ‘to be treated with the same respect as we would hope to receive from them’, but added: ‘Sadly, this courtesy was not apparent at the meeting…’

Last week, the Chief Minister said that there had been ‘no formal grievances raised, or investigations undertaken, relating to unacceptable behaviour by ministers or senior civil servants’ since the current government came into office – but admitted that ‘from time to time relationships can get strained’.

The letter published on Thursday came in response to Deputy Mézec’s call for an ‘overview of all concerns’.

Deputy Binet confirmed that he knew about and was comfortable with all but one of the messages being made public.

He said that the inclusion of the Chief Minister’s letter dated 13 April ‘came as a surprise’ to him, as it was not one of the documents that he had agreed to being made public.

Deputy Binet admitted that he was still unsure of the way forward, but said that he ‘loves the job, and loves the people’.

‘Politics is politics is politics,’ he added. ‘It is a tricky job, but it was always going to be.’

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