Official Whaitiri report released
connected to a friend of the staff member involved and made reference to a “number of serious themes . . . it then goes on to link the alleged action of the minister with this background, saying things will not improve if [redacted].”
“The email includes an explicit threat . . . Given the tone and the content of the email, including the blackmail threat; was Employee A embarrassed that the email had been sent? Did that affect what s/he said about the minister’s action?”
The letter goes on to say that the staff member, a press secretary referred to as Employee A, did not initiate the complaint herself, and that there was potentially a political element to the matter given the PM’s chief of staff was involved.
McKechnie went on to say the staff member had been in the role only a short time, it was understood she had not worked in that role before and it appeared she was “ill-equipped for the role and was not aware of a number of fundamental aspects of it”.
Whaitiri’s lawyer was also concerned that the bruise on the staff member was small and had been described as “tiny” by Patten in his interview with Whaitiri.
The bruise was not the shape expected from a grab that was alleged, the staff member was unsure where it came from because she didn’t notice until she was prompted three days later.
“Given the bruise was not ‘discovered’ until four days after the alleged events it is possible the bruise could have been as a result of an entirely unrelated manner. There is no contemporaneous evidence . . . to indicate the bruise was present on the Monday of the alleged incident and to conclude the bruise was as a result of Ms Whaitiri’s actions in those circumstances is not sustainable.”
McKechnie said the staff member’s version of events appeared to have changed throughout the process but the final report failed to mention those inconsistencies, nor did they appear to have been put to the staffer.
The incident occurred because Whaitiri was unhappy at not having been alerted to a photo opportunity at a media stand-up with Ardern during a lunch break at the function in Gisborne. Other ministers were standing behind Ardern but Whaitiri wasn’t because no one had told her it was happening.
Ardern sacked Whaitiri on September 20 after seeing the final report, saying she had lost confidence in Whaitiri at that time, but did not rule out a return for Whaitiri at some point.
Whaitiri remains the MP for the eastern Ma¯ori electorate of IkaroaRawhiti and Labour’s Ma¯ori MPs maintain support in her as coleader of the Labour Ma¯ori caucus.
Whaitiri was suspended by Ardern as a minister on August 30, while Ministerial Services, the employer of ministerial staff, conducted the inquiry.
In a statement yesterday, Whaitiri reiterated that she had at all times co-operated fully with the investigation.
“I have accepted the Prime Minister’s decision and I intend to work hard to regain her confidence.
“As noted I contested some of the allegations. However, I am disappointed my behaviour led to a complaint. I am committed to my own development, including better managing employment relationships.
“I am focusing on working hard for the people of Ikaroa-Ra¯whiti, as a member of Labour and Ma¯ori caucus and contributing as a Member of Parliament.” Whaitiri said she would be making no further comment.
A leaked report to the Herald revealed the incident involving former Government minister Meka Whaitiri and a staff member was alleged to have left bruising to the upper right arm of the staffer.