The Waikato Times editorial yesterday was scathing:
We can be sure how Minister of Police Judith Collins would have reacted, because she is minister in charge of the SFO. She is reported to have been concerned when she learned Mr Feeley had toasted the charging of Bridgecorp directors Rod Petricevic, Rob Roest, Gary Urwin and Peter Steigrad with a $70 bottle of the fallen finance company’s sparkling wine. Media accounts of an ill-considered email from Mr Feeley to SFO staff triggered the minister’s concerns.
Moreover, Mr Feeley was reported to have given a copy of Allan Hubbard’s biography, A Man Out of Time, as a booby prize at an SFO Christmas raffle. Ms Collins did not see the funny side. She referred the media revelations to the State Services Commission â€“ his employer â€“ for investigation. The book incident fortified the supporters’ view that the Hubbard investigation was biased from the outset. The Bridgecorp wine incident further meant Mr Feeley was no longer fit to work for the SFO if it were to maintain any credibility.
Mr Feeley has disputed using the Hubbard biography as a booby prize. It was a genuine prizegiving to reward good performance, he insists, although he acknowledged the gift of that book could have been misinterpreted.
SSC chief Iain Rennie said recognising staff achievement in the Bridgecorp case was reasonable, but using a bottle from the company and making the association clear in the staff email was “ill advised and demonstrated a lapse of judgment on this occasion”. But Mr Rennie credited Mr Feeley with being an “effective chief executive and leader” (although the leaking of the email suggests at least some SFO staff think otherwise).
Ms Collins has said she will be making her views clear when next she meets Mr Feeley. That is not an experience he will relish. She is not called “Crusher” for nothing.