Cook Islands Tourism Head Allegedly Fired From Position

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Authority claims ‘resignation’ due to ‘restructuring’

By Calida Smylie

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 28, 2012) – Carmel Beattie has been reportedly sacked from her position as chief executive of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.

Tourism Board chairman Ewan Smith issued a press release yesterday advising Beattie had resigned as chief executive after a two and a half year stint at the corporation’s helm.

No reason for the sudden resignation was given in the release, apart from "re-structuring."

However, CINews has it on good authority that Beattie was in fact fired, effective 4 pm yesterday (Friday). Apparently she also foresaw that in public and in the media the board would paint her sacking as a "resignation." The source says Beattie refused to sign a letter of resignation.

CINews understands the board chose to terminate her employment contract in response to an eight-to-10 page letter of complaint she sent to chairman Ewan Smith outlining her concerns over the way the board was conducting its business.

The letter detailed concerns she had about the board making decisions without consulting her first, and about the board "micro-managing" her organization. She was concerned the board was overstepping its boundaries in terms of making decisions about recruiting tourism employees and other operational matters.

The letter also raised issues around certain board members refusing to acknowledge conflicts of interest.

The tourism board comprises chairman Smith, Ben Bergman, Thomas Koteka, Teresa Manarangi-Trott, Stephen Doherty and Robert Skews. Smith refused to comment further, saying the press release was enough.

CINews understands Beattie copied her letter of complaint to tourism minister Teina Bishop, a move which reportedly upset the board.

Though a spokesperson for Bishop’s office denied Bishop knew anything about Beattie’s sacking, CINews has on authority that he was kept in the loop.

Beattie did not want to discuss the letter with CINews, explaining it was an "internal matter."

"Although I may not be CEO anymore, I’m still a supporter of the corporation and I still want the best for my staff."

When asked whether the board fired her, Beattie said "at this point" she wanted to leave it at what the release said.

"Sometimes if organizations want to change, there’s collateral damage, and if a brand wants a different direction that’s the way it is."

Tourism’s release said the chief executive role will be split into a general manager’s position with responsibility for day-to-day running, and a second position dealing with the industry’s Northern Hemisphere markets. Beattie is "very sad" to be leaving tourism, but hopes to remain in the Cooks after finding a new job.

"I love Cook Islands Tourism. I love the organization and I’m very, very proud of what we as a team have done."

Beattie came to the role in June 2010, after working at Tourism New South Wales as the international markets group manager. Originally from Brisbane, she lived in Sydney for 12 years before coming to work in the Cooks.

She thanks the country for supporting her.

"I’m very grateful to the Cook Islands people for the way they’ve embraced me," she says.

"And I have such respect for my team, I know they will go on to do great things in the future. They’re dedicated and focused, they’re an incredible team and I want to be supportive of them."

Tourism said through the release it appreciated the "flair and effort" Beattie put into the operation during her tenure, which transformed the corporation into a well-structured organization.

Tourism has a total yearly budget of around NZ$9 million [US$7.3 million], including NZ$3 million [US$2.4 million] in official overseas development assistance funds.

Finance director Halatoa Fua will be acting chief executive until a new general manager can be recruited.

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