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.