Written By: - Date published: 9:20 am, March 3rd, 2019 - 25 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, national, Politics, same old national, workers' rights - Tags: kirsty johnston, maggie barry
This rather strange story has bubbled to the surface again.
And one aspect of it, the use of Parliamentary Services resource for political purposes is very strange given the abundance of National’s resources. Why use a staffer to perform political work when there is plenty of paid party help to do the work?
The problem for National is that claims of bullying have also emerged. And this particular story is not going to disappear overnight.
Kirsty Johnston from the Herald has the details:
Staff from three government departments who worked with MP Maggie Barry raised concerns about her behaviour during her time as a minister – and at least one also complained to the head of the public service.
Confirmation of the complaints from government staff about Barry’s conduct follow bullying allegations made by her electorate staff last year.
The Weekend Herald revealed in December the North Shore representative and former garden show host was twice investigated during 2018 for alleged bullying.
Allegations made by a staffer to Parliamentary Service said 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.
He claimed Barry also expected staff to do political work on taxpayer time, which would be unlawful.
Barry denied all the allegations and said the Parliamentary Service had made no findings of bullying or harassment.
However, the staffer at the centre of the claims said the service did not properly investigate his allegations, and laid a complaint with the Auditor General.
Last week, the Auditor General asked the Parliamentary Service to re-investigate the claims of unlawful political work.
This week, the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Social Development and Ministry for Culture and Heritage – all which had workers seconded to Barry’s Parliamentary office – confirmed to the Weekend Herald they also had staff raise concerns about Barry’s conduct.
Additionally, the State Services Commission (SSC) revealed concerns were raised with its office in respect of Barry during her time as a minister, too.
OIAs have been lodged and each department has refused to provide the details. Interestingly different reasons have been advanced by each department.
Barry denies it all although the language used is somewhat awkward and is not a fulsome rebuttal. Again from the Herald:
In a statement released yesterday, a spokesperson for Barry said she was never made aware of any formal complaints against her by any government department staff seconded to her Beehive office.
“In the three years she was a Minister, concerns may have been raised and discussed but they did not progress to any formal complaints process,” the statement said.
“No one chose to pursue any concerns and there were no formal complaints which is why Maggie Barry not made aware of them.”
This story will continue to simmer. Parliamentary Services will no doubt investigate the resources misuse claim. And I am sure the Ombudsman will be asked to assist in the provision of the information regarding Ministerial bullying. As taxpayers we ought to be told how our representatives have been treating the staff who are essentially employed by us.