Parliament is the place where laws are made. Justice is dispensed elsewhere, as the bloke stood down from Parliament after publication of the Francis report probably would attest.
Veteran Parliamentary reporter Barry Soper reports that the man
… 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.
The Francis report, dealing with bullying and harassment in Parliament, revealed three serious allegations of sexual harassment.
Shortly afterward, the Speaker, Trevor Mallard, said of these alleged incidents:
“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape.”
Soper has published a conflicting account based on a two-hour sit-down discussion in the accused man’s home.
Newstalk ZB and the NZ Herald decided not to publish his name to protect his family.
The “devastated” man is reported as saying:
“The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place.
Early that afternoon, according to Soper’s report, the man 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 – who had been at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier – had come forward during the Francis inquiry after complainants were urged to do so by the Speaker, but:
“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.
The man said his family was dumbfounded and couldn’t believe he could be accused of sexual misconduct.
“Arriving home after being stood down I was numb. I sat stunned thinking this can’t be happening to me,” he said.
The man said the complaint resulted from working alongside a colleague at Parliament some three years ago 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.
By this man’s account, what happened was a hug. In Mallard’s book it was rape.
Two years later – Soper’s report says – the woman laid a complaint and both of them were interviewed. The complaint was not upheld:
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.”
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 same woman was involved in one of two subsequent incidents, according to Soper’s account of what the accused man told him.
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.
After talking to the man, Soper says NewstalkZB saw the finding of the investigation against him. This was
” … 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.”
“I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim.”
They were unsourced because staff at Parliament were effectively invited to say anything they liked about anyone they didn’t like and were assured anonymity.
Anything they did say, they were told, would be destroyed so no-one could hold them to anything they’d said.
Soper further says the maligned man to whom he spoke had already faced an employment inquiry and been exonerated.
The new employment inquiry into his alleged behaviours is unlikely to come up with anything different from the first, given there were no witnesses nor CCTV, Soper muses.
He sums up:
” … at this stage, I believe the man deserves an apology from Mallard. I believe he deserves to be reinstated so that he can clear his name. And I believe he deserves compensation for what’s he’s been put through.”
Good luck with that.