Jami-Lee Ross: Spin and allegations

Credit: Getty/Newshub.

A new recording has been released of a phone call between Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett and Jami-Lee Ross.  It covers a conversation where the three are discussing how to handle Jami-Lee’s period of leave from parliament. At best it can be described as spin, at worst it’s plotting a cover-up.

This from NewshubQuote:

Secret recordings of a conversation involving Jami-Lee Ross, Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett have been leaked to The AM Show.

The clip features Mr Ross talking to the National Party leadership ahead of his decision to take personal leave at the start of October.

The comments on the tape suggest the National leadership team was trying to cover up the wrongdoing by Mr Ross. They discuss what reasons they will give for his leave – medical or family. Ms Bennett says medical leave would be better, as it would reduce media interest.

“So it would be for medical reasons?” asks Mr Ross.

“Is that what you want?” asks Ms Bennett. “I think either medical or family.”

“Medical is true,” says Mr Ross.

“That’s right,” says Mr Bridges. “There’s no shame in that.”  End of quote.

Interesting that Mr Bridges tells Mr Ross in this conversation that ‘there’s no shame in that’ when responding to Mr Ross saying that medical leave is true.  Yet when the media announcement about Mr Ross’s leave was made, Mr Bridges told the media that it was “perhaps actually embarrassing.  A lot embarrassing, potentially”.

I’d say that statement from Bridges was perhaps actually misleading.  A lot misleading, potentially.  Quote:

“And it means everyone will back off you too – the media and all that sort of stuff,” says Ms Bennett.

His alleged disloyalty was discussed on the tape, but importantly the harassment of staff was also mentioned. Mr Ross asks for clarification about the harassment allegations against him, but Ms Bennett doesn’t oblige.  End of quote.

Mr Ross’s leave for medical reasons is actually because there are questions about disloyalty, and allegations about harassment of staff.  Yet despite Mr Ross specifically asking for details about the harassment allegations, none are given.  That was perhaps actually unfair.  A lot unfair, potentially.

This is covered further in another Newshub story, where an opinion is sought from an employment lawyer: Quote:

Employment lawyer Bridget Smith of SBM Legal says the recording appears to show when it came to allegations of inappropriate behaviour, Mr Bridges and Ms Bennett had already made their mind up.

The “four or five” women Mr Bridges mentioned on The AM Show on Monday didn’t lay formal complaints, but their concerns still managed to reach the highest levels of the National Party.

“The thing that concerns me most is Jami-Lee Ross saying, ‘You haven’t actually told me what I’ve alleged to have done,'” Ms Smith told Newshub.

“The issue for Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett and the National Party appears to be they are saying, ‘We have these women make complaints to us, but they weren’t actually complaints – we didn’t have their authority to put them to you. They were saying you behaved inappropriately.’

“The way it reads it seems like Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett had made up their minds that that was in fact the case without any form of investigation or giving Jami-Lee Ross any opportunity to respond. They simply moved in: ‘We’ve been told you’ve done this, therefore you must have done this and we are going to talk about how best to manage this.'”  End of quote.

They were only interested in allegations Quote:

While not having any formal complaints complicates matters, she says Mr Ross still had the right to be told what it is he allegedly did.

“The fact is if someone alleges you’ve done something, you’re entitled to know what it is you are alleged to have done and an opportunity to respond.”  End of quote.

Yet Ms Bennett doesn’t answer his request for more details about the harassment allegations, she just deflects and says the ‘loyalty issues” are enough to get him thrown out of caucus.  Quote:

Another area Ms Smith thinks Mr Bridges made a mistake was telling Mr Ross that if he stuck to the story that he was going on medical leave, Mr Bridges wouldn’t go public with the allegations.

“I give you my 100 percent assurance that if you go with the statement along the lines we’ve talked about, I will never badmouth you in relation to this – privately, publicly, in background, off the record in any way,” Mr Bridges says in the latest leaked recording.

“It almost sounds like blackmail,” said Ms Smith.

While non-disclosure agreements are common when an employee leaves an organisation for good and everyone decides to be “mature” and go their separate ways, this leave was only meant to be temporary – any conflicts between Mr Ross and the party leadership would still be there, potentially to be made public, when Mr Ross came back.

“You shouldn’t write cheques your mouth can’t cash,” said Ms Smith.  End of quote.

Touche.

 


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