Of­fi­cial Whaitiri re­port re­leased

Former Min­is­ter’s lawyer dis­puted bruis­ing al­le­ga­tion

Bay of Plenty Times - - NATION - Her­ald

Aredacted ver­sion of a re­port into an al­le­ga­tion of staff bul­ly­ing against former Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Meka Whaitiri has fi­nally been re­leased.

The re­port, by Welling­ton lawyer David Pat­ten, con­firms what was said in a re­port which said the new staff mem­ber was left with bruis­ing af­ter the en­counter with Whaitiri at an event at­tended by Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern in Gis­borne on Au­gust 27.

“Af­ter giv­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to this mat­ter, it is my view that the ex­pla­na­tion pro­vided to me by Em­ployee A is a more prob­a­ble ex­pla­na­tion as to what hap­pened than the ex­pla­na­tion pro­vided to me by the Min­is­ter. That is, rather than the en­counter be­tween the two of them in the foyer be­ing a face-to-face en­counter as de­scribed to me by the Min­is­ter, the Min­is­ter in fact ap­proached Em­ployee A from slightly be­hind and grabbed Em­ployee A by the arm,” Pat­ten said in the re­port.

“Af­ter con­sid­er­ing this mat­ter and, in par­tic­u­lar, hav­ing re­gard to the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to me by Em­ployee A, I find that the Min­is­ter did not pull and/or drag Em­ployee A from the foyer. She did take Em­ployee A out­side the build­ing where the meet­ing was tak­ing place.”

Whaitiri has dis­puted el­e­ments of the re­port, and among the doc­u­ments re­leased yes­ter­day is a redacted copy of a let­ter from her lawyer’s firm Simp­son Gri­er­son to Pat­ten.

It refers to a “threat­en­ing email” sent to the Prime Min­is­ter on Septem­ber 29 at 8.18am, which Simp­son Gri­er­son lawyer Sally McKech­nie said con­tained strong lan­guage to de­scribe the al­leged events.

The email was sent by a per­son 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.” 2 dead, 9 in­jured on roads Two peo­ple had died and at least nine had been in­jured as of yes­ter­day evening in a se­ries of crashes ahead of a school hol­i­day week­end. In the Waikato, five peo­ple ap­peared to be se­ri­ously in­jured af­ter a crash in Mokau. Emer­gency ser­vices had been called to SH3 in Mokau near Ye Old Mill Rd and North St. Po­lice said ini­tial in­di­ca­tions were five peo­ple may be se­ri­ously in­jured. Mean­while, a per­son died in a crash on Sad­dle Rd, Manawatu. The two-ve­hi­cle crash oc­curred about 2.10pm, 5km from Woodville. Four other peo­ple had been in­jured, two se­ri­ously. Sad­dle Rd was closed and di­ver­sions were in place. Fur­ther North, a per­son died at a busy Mount Maun­ganui in­ter­sec­tion in spite of ef­forts by paramedics to save their life. Emer­gency ser­vices were called to the scene on the corner of Hewletts Rd and To­tara St at 1.12pm. A po­lice me­dia spokes­woman said a car had crashed into a fence and the driver ap­peared to have suf­fered a med­i­cal event. At 2.27pm po­lice re­leased a state­ment say­ing the per­son had died. The death would be re­ferred to the coro­ner. Stal­wart ac­tivist dies Penny Bright, the Auck­land ac­tivist who nearly lost her house af­ter re­fus­ing to pay rates for 11 years and whose motto was “open the books”, died on Thurs­day night. She was 64. For the past 20 years, the hard-boiled ac­tivist and former sheet­metal welder made il­le­gal con­nec­tions for pro­test­ers whose wa­ter was cut off, got dragged by se­cu­rity guards from coun­cil meet­ings and ha­rangued may­ors, bu­reau­crats, po­lice and the ju­di­ciary. She was ar­rested more than 40 times. Bright died in Mercy Hospice on Thurs­day. She stood, un­suc­cess­fully, for the Auck­land may­oralty and Par­lia­ment on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions. At the start of this year Auck­land Coun­cil be­gan en­force­ment ac­tion as a last re­sort and the house was listed for sale to re­coup tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in un­paid rates and penal­ties. Bright set­tled her case with the coun­cil in May af­ter seek­ing a rates post­pone­ment ap­pli­ca­tion at the 11th hour af­ter of­fers closed on the Kings­land prop­erty she pur­chased in 1990.

PHOTO / FILE

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.

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