Whis­tle-blower threat­ened with le­gal ac­tion

More pub­lic ser­vants back for­mer staffer’s al­le­ga­tions against MP

Rotorua Daily Post - - Nation - Kirsty John­ston

Aformer staffer who re­vealed al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing against MP Mag­gie Barry has been threat­ened with le­gal ac­tion — as more pub­lic ser­vants come for­ward to back his claims.

Par­lia­men­tary Ser­vice, which em­ploys MPs’ sup­port staff, con­tacted the whistle­blower on Wed­nes­day night to ask him to stop shar­ing pri­vate and con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion, or it would be “forced” to act.

It said the de­ci­sion “was not made lightly” but it was con­cerned that other staff’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion was be­ing made pub­lic, caus­ing dis­tress.

The staffer said the fact he was the one in le­gal jeop­ardy when he had come for­ward to Par­lia­men­tary Ser­vice with ev­i­dence of al­leged un­law­ful and bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour was ironic.

“It re­in­forces the is­sue that I have with pow­er­ful peo­ple get­ting pro­tected and pro­moted. I’ve lost my job and she still has her job — that’s typ­i­cal,” he claimed.

The Week­end Her­ald re­ported last week that Barry, a for­mer gar­den­ing show host and MP for the North Shore, was twice in­ves­ti­gated for bul­ly­ing this year — in­clud­ing ac­cu­sa­tions she ex­pected staff to do po­lit­i­cal work on tax­payer time, which could be un­law­ful.

The al­le­ga­tions made by the staffer to Par­lia­men­tary Ser­vice in­cluded that Barry reg­u­larly swore and yelled at em­ploy­ees, be­lit­tled their in­tel­li­gence and ap­pear­ance, dis­cussed staffers’ sex­u­al­ity in the work­place, and used deroga­tory terms like “nut­ter” about peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues.

Barry de­nies all the al­le­ga­tions and said a work­place in­ves­ti­ga­tion had cleared her of bul­ly­ing charges.

How­ever, the for­mer staffer said no find­ings at all were made in his case with re­gards to bul­ly­ing, and the Week­end Her­ald has been un­able to in­de­pen­dently con­firm the re­sult of the other case, which was a per­sonal grievance.

It is un­clear if the al­le­ga­tions about a mis­use of pub­lic money were in­ves­ti­gated by Par­lia­men­tary Ser­vice. This week, the staffer pro­vided the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral with doc­u­men­ta­tion about the al­leged breaches, and it con­firmed it would as­sess the in­for­ma­tion.

Since the staffer came for­ward, the Her­ald has heard other al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing from Barry’s time as a min­is­ter with the for­mer Na­tional Gov­ern­ment.

From 2014-2017, Barry had three port­fo­lios — con­ser­va­tion, se­nior cit­i­zens and arts, cul­ture and her­itage. Each min­istry pro­vided pri­vate sec­re­taries to her of­fice as sup­port.

One of those sec­re­taries, a woman with 25 years in the pub­lic ser­vice in­clud­ing stints with three other min­is­ters, said last week’s al­le­ga­tions matched her ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Ev­ery­thing that young man said I can hon­estly say it hap­pened while I worked for her — she would de­grade and be­lit­tle of­fi­cials, and she had deroga­tory names for staff,” she al­leged.

“But there is a code of si­lence within Par­lia­ment and that’s why it doesn’t come out. There’s that men­tal­ity — what goes on tour stays on tour.”

The woman said the day she left Barry’s of­fice for good was the worst ex­am­ple of bad be­hav­iour. Barry had ac­cused the woman of not pro­vid­ing the cor­rect brief­ing papers be­fore a meet­ing — but they were colour-coded and in her in­tray and Barry just hadn’t read them, the woman claimed.

“She was yelling and scream­ing like a mad woman, ac­cus­ing me of ly­ing. She was say­ing I was in­com­pe­tent. And then she started swear­ing. I said, you can’t talk to me like that, min­is­ter, I’ll come back when you calm down. And I left.”

When the woman re­turned to work the next day, she was told she was no longer wel­come, and was es­corted out by se­cu­rity.

“I left shocked. Af­ter five years of work­ing in that role I was like, that’s in­cred­i­ble, I can’t be­lieve it.”

An­other of­fi­cial from a dif­fer­ent de­part­ment, who reg­u­larly en­gaged with Barry when she was a min­is­ter, claimed the be­hav­iour de­scribed was in keep­ing with her ex­pe­ri­ence too.

“I’ve seen peo­ple say­ing since this came out that the staff are be­ing pre­cious,” she said.

But that is un­true, claimed the of­fi­cial, who be­lieves “the dif­fer­ence is that her be­hav­iour with peo­ple she doesn’t like is so vit­ri­olic and so con­sis­tent over time that it be­comes trau­matic.”

“She was the worst bully I’ve ever come across . . . she de­stroyed my con­fi­dence and self es­teem and it was a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence for me and my young fam­ily,” the of­fi­cial claimed, say­ing she be­lieved “she needs to be held ac­count­able for her ac­tions.”

Barry did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the new al­le­ga­tions.

MP Mag­gie Barry de­nies all the al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing staff.

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