No coincidence

15/12/2020

Had it not been for Barry Soper who had an exclusive interview with the man Trevor Mallard accused of being a rapist, we might never have known the disastrous impact Trevor Mallard’s loose lips had on his victim.

. . . In a two hour sit down discussion in his home, the devastated man said “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place”. 

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so called ‘rapist’ when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down. A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by The Speaker.

“At no time was I spoken to by the review’s head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said.

He said his family was dumbfounded, they couldn’t believe he could be accused of sexual misconduct. . . 

That interview was in May last year.

Last week, on the day most media and public attention was on the release of the Royal Commission’s report on the Mosque murders, Mallard released an apology?

Are we expected to believe the timing was coincidental?

Are we also expected to believe the timing of the rule change allowing costs for all MPs’ court settlements to be covered by taxpayer funds, after Mallard was sued for making the remarks, was coincidental?

At the same time Speaker Trevor Mallard was being sued for defamation, he changed the rules so other MPs could also have theirs covered by the taxpayer without disclosing it publicly.

National and Act leaders yesterday said they no longer had confidence in the Speaker after he revealed he’d cost the taxpayer more than $330,600 settling a case after incorrectly calling a former Parliamentary staffer a rapist.

It has also now come to light that the rules for when MPs can claim legal costs when they’re being sued were expanded by the Speaker in August so damages and settlements can come from the public purse.

Those applications have to be signed off by the party leader, the Speaker and chief executive of Parliamentary Service. . . 

The timing of neither was a coincidence.

Releasing the apology that day must have been a deliberate attempt to bury it while attention was focused elsewhere. Changing the rules at the very least was opportunistic.

National and Act have both announced they have lost confidence in Mallard as speaker and they are not alone:

Barry Soper explains why he should resign:

National’s lost confidence in him and Labour, the party that preaches wellbeing and kindness, surely will have no choice but to vote against his continuing in the role.

Labour does have a choice : do they, and their leader want to squander political capital protecting Mallard?

It’s been confirmed that the almost $334,000 in legal costs have been paid out by the taxpayer. Why? Well Mallard had the rules changed after he made his outrageous comment to protect him from having to pay the bill for something he should have known would go against him.

The tragedy in all of this is that the man he accused of a terrible crime, who spoke exclusively to me after the Mallard allegation last year, has suffered serious health issues since he was sent packing and it looks as though he will get nothing from the settlement.

Lawyers for both sides got five-figure payments, The accused man lost his job and his health but it appears he got no compensation.

Mallard must have known his rape claim was false last year, but waited until after the election and much litigation to apologise. If he’d done it last year he would have faced a no confidence vote in Parliament and would likely be gone, as New Zealand First was unlikely to support him.

It’s difficult to fathom why he unsuccessfully demanded the man’s name be made public, other than to cause embarrassment.

It demeans the inquiry into bullying and harassment Parliament launched with great fanfare by Mallard and consultant Debbie Francis. The silence of Francis was deafening when the claim of rape was made.

It shows how the powerful can ride roughshod over the powerless. If the Parliamentary staffer hadn’t spoken to me, this would have been swept under the carpet.

It shows how manipulative the Speaker, ranked as the third most important role in the country after the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, can be in releasing his apology late on the day of the Royal Commission on the mosque shootings and on the eve of the first anniversary of the Whakaari/White Island eruption. . . 

Heather du Plessis-Allan also says Mallard must go:

. . .I don’t believe Mallard should have been given the role. In my opinion the role should have been given to someone who has the respect of their colleagues, control of their temperament and can suspend their party bias.

Mallard is, by contrast, not well-liked in Parliament, has a history of ill-judged behaviour (including punching Tau Henare and saying he wanted to shove a Heineken in an “uncomfortable” part of a rugby official’s body) and has been accused of bias in the debating chamber through his apparent attempts to protect the Prime Minister. . . 

He is a bad look for Labour. For a party that makes a big claim of kindness and wellbeing, it’s a terrible look to promote and defend a senior MP who did the opposite of kindness to a working-class Kiwi.

Mallard should resign, for the sake of his party and the Office of the Speaker. In my view, his conduct is unbecoming of both . . .

Kerre McIvor said the defamation debacle stinks:

. . .  Bad enough that Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard falsely accuses a parliamentary staffer of rape, but while he was being sued for defamation by the aforementioned staffer, he was part of a very quiet rule change. . .

There’s several things about this that stink. One, that Mallard should have been involved in a scheme to extend protection from financial consequences across all of Parliament at a time when he was trying to save his own sorry skin in a defamation suit – a suit he must have known he would lose.

And two, that on the day the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque shootings released its findings, the Speaker of the House used the distraction to issue an apology to the staffer involved, knowing full well that his apology would be buried under the huge number of stories on the inquiry and its recommendations.

He’s not the first person to have done this and he won’t be the last – of any party – but it’s a cynical, shabby move. He’ll be hoping the story will simply disappear over summer and that by the time the House sits in the new year, all will be forgiven and forgotten.

National and Act have declared the Speaker must resign and that his behaviour is such that he no longer has their confidence. A vote of no confidence will surely fail because of the enormous majority Labour enjoys in the House.

But Mallard’s 36-year career has been tarnished. And he’ll likely have a very tough ride over the next two and a half years – deservedly so. 

Labour should have been finishing the year on a high as the first party to command a majority under MMP.

Instead it’s being tarnished by the actions of the Speaker.

They might think it will all go away over summer.

It won’t.

If Mallard doesn’t resign National and Act will make sure it doesn’t and that it is front and centre of attention when parliament resumes in February.


Driven to dark place by unsubstantiated accusations

28/05/2019

Barry Soper writes:

The man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape has spoken out. . .

He was stood down by the closed shop Parliamentary Service last week, which is exempt from the Official Information Act and will not have to release documents over the alleged incident.

Referring last week to the alleged assaults, Mallard said: “We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape.”

At the time there were questions about the wisdom of this statement given it could prejudice any legal proceedings. Now there are even more questions.

In a two hour sit down discussion in his home, the devastated man said “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place”. 

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so called ‘rapist’ when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down. A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by The Speaker. 

At no time was I spoken to by the review’s head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said. . .

The complaint was ruled to be unsubstantiated last year, laid two years after the incident happened.

The man said it resulted from working alongside a colleague at Parliament when a clipboard was lost.

“We searched for the clipboard which was important and with great relief we finally found it. She gave me a high five but being a little old fashioned I hugged her back, that was honestly all there was to it,” the man said.

A hug might be inappropriate or even unwelcome but it’s a long way from rape.

Two years later he said she laid a complaint and both of them were interviewed. In a written decision, after the investigation last year, her claim that he hugged her from behind pushing his groin into her, was found to be unsubstantiated and no further action was warranted.

However after the call from Speaker Mallard last week, the woman, who the man said he’d had a few sharp exchanges with since the hug, asked for the complaint to be reconsidered.

Immediately after that he was sent packing from Parliament with Mallard summoning the media to declare: “I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigation, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed the threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.”

If it was unsubstantiated two years ago, how could it possible be serious sexual assault, even rape, now? This isn’t she said, he said, the complaint was investigated and wasn’t substantiated.

The Speaker understood the same man was responsible for the two other claims of serious, sexual assault. He later added one of the key dangers is no longer in the building.

The man said he’s dumbfounded but the same woman was involved in one of the other complaints. He said he passed a comment about another woman’s hair looking nice, with the original complainant telling her he was looking at her breasts. 

The third complaint came following a platonic friendship he had with another colleague, who on one occasion came around to his house with her son for a cup of tea with his wife. He says he kissed her on the cheek once as he was farewelling her and he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else.

In Argentina it’s common to greet and farewell people with a single kiss, right cheek to right cheek; in Spain it’s a kiss on each cheek and in Holland it’s three kisses.

That isn’t the cultural norm here in the work place but even if a kiss on the cheek might not be appropriate it’s a long way from sexual assault.

After talking to the man, NewstalkZB saw the finding of the investigation against him, a finding that would usually be kept under wraps by the unimpeachable Parliamentary Service. The finding bore out everything the man had claimed and found the claim against him was unsubstantiated. . . 

The accused man is understandably in a dark place and was driven there by the Speaker who turned unsubstantiated accusations of a hug and a kiss on the cheek into accusations of serious sexual assault.

The Francis report raised some very serious questions about the behavior of several people in parliament – MPs, staff and the media.

This now raises questions about the validity of the report.

 


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