MP Todd Barclay refused to cooperate with police investigating bugging claims

Author
David Fisher of the NZ Herald, Eileen Goodwin of the ODT and Nicholas Jones of the NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 March 2017, 2:11PM
National's Clutha MP Todd Barclay (Christine McKay).
National's Clutha MP Todd Barclay (Christine McKay).

UPDATED 3.54pm National MP Todd Barclay refused to cooperate with detectives carrying out an investigation into allegations he had secretly recorded staff in his electorate office, according to documents released from the official police investigation.

Instead, Barclay did not return phone messages left for him by lead detective on the inquiry and had a lawyer contact police to say he would not be making a statement.

Barclay had earlier told the Otago Daily Times: "If they do contact me on any matter, then I will co-operate fully.''

The police investigation was into whether Barclay had breached a section of the Crimes Act around "use of interception devices".

In a statement, Barclay said there had clearly been a "breakdown" in the employment relationship.

“I had received complaints about the conduct of a staff member from members of the public and I referred the matter to Parliamentary Services. As the legal employer of support staff, they acted as they deemed appropriate and embarked on a disciplinary process. It is an employment matter and as I’ve said in the past I can’t go into details through the media.

“During the process my lawyer was asked by Police if I wanted to make a statement. We talked about it and decided to decline the Police’s invitation, as is my right.

“The Police looked into a complaint made by the former staff member and decided not to take it any further – that’s the end of the matter for me. I’ve been reselected as National’s candidate for Clutha-Southland for the 2017 election. I’ve got a great, loyal team working across my three electorate offices and I’m focused on moving forward and continuing to work hard supporting and representing the great people of Clutha-Southland.”

Prime Minister Bill English refused to comment on Barclay’s lack of co-operation with police today, saying the matter had been resolved.

“It was an employment dispute, the police have had a look at it, he’s been re-selected, and I think that’s pretty much the end of it.”

English, the former MP for Southland, would also not comment on his involvement in the investigation.

“I was the local MP, I knew the two people pretty well, but I’m not going to comment any further than that.”

He was disappointed with the disagreements in his old seat, but said it was “time for everyone to move on”.

The police investigation file was released through the Official Information Act and gives a detailed account of the breakdown in relations between staff working in the Clutha-Southland and Barclay, who took over the seat from English in 2014.

Barclay entered Parliament that year aged 24 and was the first MP to be elected from the 1990s. His role as the local MP has been wrought with controversy over the allegation he illegally recorded his staff.

There were no charges laid following the 10-month long investigation with police eventually stating there was insufficient evidence.

The allegation led to division among the previously united Clutha-Southland National Party, which has a membership said to be 1500-strong. It led to Barclay facing - and surviving - a selection challenge from Simon Flood, a former Merrill Lynch banker.

The investigation file includes a statement from Detective Inspector Antony Hill detailing attempts he had made to arrange an interview with Barclay about the allegations.

He said he was brought in to manage the investigation in March last year and contacted Barclay twice in July 2016 to request an interview about the claims which had been made.

The first attempt to contact Barclay by telephone took place on July 12 2016 with Hill's call going to an answer message. He was sent a text saying Barclay was out of the country until July 29 2016.

On July 29 2016, Hill tried to reach Barclay and again left a message.

His statement reads: "I subsequently received a call from Mr Barclay's solicitor advising he would not be making a statement in relation to this investigation."

While Barclay had earlier said he would cooperate with police, he later said he had not spoken with detectives.

In November, he said: "I have not spoken to the police about any alleged complaint. Parliamentary Services is responsible for staffing issues so, at the end of the day, they are the employer and it's not appropriate for them, or me, to be talking about employment matters."

Asked directly if police had asked to speak with him, he said: "As I have made clear, I have not spoken to the police about any alleged complaint."

The names of the staff members were blacked out in the police release but the NZ Herald and Otago Daily Times have been able to confirm the identities of those who were interviewed.

The inquiry began with a complaint to police by his electorate agent Glenys Dickson, who had worked for English for 17 years. Electorate agents are employed by Parliamentary Services but work closely with MPs and often act on the MP's behalf during a politician's absence.

On February 29 2016, Dickson told a detective sergeant at Gore police station she had been asked to stand down as manager despite a positive performance appraisal. At the same time, she had heard discussion in the community about a "breach of confidentiality".

She contacted an employment lawyer and said she was told it was a case of "unfair dismissal".

The lawyer then approached Parliamentary Services to put forward conditions around leaving the job and severance pay.

"They also told her about the recordings that Todd had," she said to police. The lawyer contacted Parliamentary Services for further discussions and was told it had changed position on her exit and her initial offer had been accepted.

"It seemed strange they had changed their decision so quickly within a day," she said.

"I have real concerns some of my private conversations have been listened to and recorded. My expectation is that I would have been able to make private and personal calls from my office without them being listened to.

"None of the staff were ever notified by Parliamentary Services that any phone calls were to be monitored."

She said she had been told by another person who dealt with Parliamentary Services that Barclay had recordings of conversations she had.

"I have no idea how these recordings would have been done."

Dickson told police of a conversation she said she had with Barclay in January 2016 in which he was alleged to have said "he could go to Spark and pay $5000 and get copies of my telephone conversations".

"This was certainly said as a threat. He said that to me in his office."

The breakdown of relations took place against a backdrop of suspicion and clashes between Dickson and Barclay. She told police: "I stood up to him and challenged him on a number of issues as I believed it was quite inappropriate the way that he was behaving."

She said there was also dissatisfaction from those in the community. "Some of these conversations were around Todd's performance issues and some of these people not happy with the way things had been done (by) Todd."

Another staff member in the electorate office told of a phone call from Barclay on the day Dickson was meeting with Parliamentary Services to discuss deteriorating relations. He told her it was "really important I got all the locks changed in the office".

The file also includes an interview with former electorate chairman Stuart Davie, who resigned during the breakdown of relations. He said he had confronted Barclay with the allegations and was told: "I did not tap any phones."

The police investigation appears to have been hampered by rules around seeking search warrants for any premises controlled by Parliamentary Services.

Police also considered getting a search warrant for Barclay's home and Parliamentary offices to look for a dictaphone, the documents show. There was also consideration given to seizing his cellphone.

A spokesman for police said: "There was insufficient evidence for a search warrant and none was obtained."

The papers show that there was a hope he would provide any Dictaphone voluntarily.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read asked Hill to consider the issue at the same time he gave him the green light to go ahead with seeking an interview with Barclay.

"We will need to have the capability to execute search warrant(s) if necessary for the Dictaphone. I would prefer that we asked him to provide it by consent at the time we conduct the interview."

Read told Hill there were special rules for seeking to search politician's property.

 

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