Little will face court for his defamation of Earl Hagaman

Andrew Little attacked Earl Hagaman for a donation he gave to the National party. He essentially accused the Hagamans of corruption.

That has now landed him in court.

Labour leader Andrew Little will face defamation proceedings after the founders of a hotel chain rejected a late apology over accusations regarding a Niue resort deal.

Little has apologised unreservedly for his comments, after the deal was cleared by the Auditor General last year, and says it is “unfortunate” the case is still heading to court.  

Scenic Hotel Group founder Earl Hagaman, and wife Lani, made a donation to the National Party during the 2014 election of $101,000.

A month later the company won a tender to manage the Matavai resort in Niue, which receives funding from the New Zealand Government.

In April last year, Little questioned the nature and timing of the contract award.

The following month, the Hagamans gave Little a deadline to apologise, with Lani Hagaman saying they were asking for a full retraction and apology because “no-one should be verbally attacked and denigrated because they believe in democracy, and the right to make their own unsolicited political choice on who they want to give a donation to”.

However, Little ignored the ultimatum.

Bad mistake.

Auditor General Lyn Provost cleared the deal last September, saying her office had found there was a standard procurement process with reasoned and documented analysis for the selection of Scenic Hotel Group to operate the resort, and for the subsequent investment of New Zealand international development assistance funds in expanding the resort.

In a statement on Friday, Little said there was “considerable media interest” about the contract, and as leader of the opposition he had an obligation to respond.

“My focus was, and has always been, on holding the Government to account.”

Little had referred the matter to the Auditor General to address his concerns, but Provost had found no connection between the donation and the contract, which he accepted.

After the Auditor General’s ruling, he made serious efforts to resolve the issue with the couple.

“Today I want to publicly apologise unreservedly to Mr Hagaman for any hurt, embarrassment or adverse reflection on his reputation which may have resulted from my various media statements.

“I have offered that apology to the Hagamans. I have also offered to make a substantial contribution towards the Hagamans’ costs; an amount I am advised, was greater than would likely have been awarded by the court.”

He only made his apology after his smears and claims fell down around his ears. Then he tried to be cute about it claiming he was holding the government to account. Except he wasn’t. He went after the Hagamans and now it is going to hurt.

However, Little said his offers had been rejected, meaning the case would now head to court.

“That is unfortunate. I strongly believe everybody’s time, not least the court’s, could be better used.”

His criticism was aimed at the actions of the Government, and “intended to reflect no impropriety on the part of Mr Hagaman”.

Except it did reflect poorly on the Hagamans and that is why he now finds himself in court.

He might moan about the costs associated with such actions but this is what happens. It matters not to the Hagamans how much the damages are, it will cost Andrew Little the thick end of a million dollars to defend this, and I suspect he doesn’t have a million dollars.

There is now a valid reason to replace Little as leader with Jacindarella. How on earth can Andrew Little fight an election and a defamation suit. I know how much time I am putting into the Colin Craig suit…it is very time-consuming.

Labour are going to suffer for the actions of their fool leader.

The Hagaman’s respond to Little’s last minute apology:

HAGAMAN RESPONSE: APOLOGY WAS DUE MORE THAN A YEAR AGO

The media statement released today by New Zealand Labour Party leader Andrew Little in relation to allegations made against Earl Hagaman, the founder of Scenic Hotel Group, has come as “a surprise”, says Earl’s wife Lani Hagaman.

“It’s difficult for us to accept this as a genuine apology if Earl is receiving the details after it was released to the national media,” she said.

Lani Hagaman said they would consider their position over the weekend and they would seek legal advice but, at first glance, believe they will continue with defamation proceedings that commence in Wellington’s High Court on 3 April.

“Mr Little has had 12 months to apologise, and in the interim we’ve spent more than $200,000 in legal fees preparing for this case, which is now only one week away.”

Ends

So Little waited until the very last minute, then issued a press release claiming it was a waste of court time. Doesn’t sound very apologetic to me.

I love the style of the Hagamans

– Fairfax

 

 


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