Journalist denies campaign against mayor

Jim Boult.
Jim Boult.
The Lake Hawea journalist accused of trying to blackmail Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult denies she was part of a smear campaign against the mayor before the 2016 local body election.

Aimee Wilson told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she was working as a freelance journalist at the time she investigated Mr Boult over the collapse of Stonewood Homes New Zealand Ltd.

Mr Boult was a director of the building company until shortly before it went into receivership, and in August last year it was announced Mr Boult and an associate were facing High Court action brought by the company's liquidators.

Heavily redacted documents in relation to the blackmail accusation have now been made public by police.

They include a letter to Inspector Olaf Jensen from investigating officer Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, who said a list of questions emailed by Ms Wilson to Mr Boult ended with the words: ''Do you think that the public have a right to know this information so they can make an informed decision?''

''Mr Boult took that as a threat that if he didn't stand down for mayor, she would disclose information in relation to Stonewood,'' Snr Sgt Inglis wrote.

There was ''no doubt'' there was an ''orchestrated smear campaign'' to try to discredit Mr Boult before the 2016 election, he added.

''However, the possibility of this reaching any threshold towards blackmail fell well short.''

A case file document recorded blackmail - ''no offence disclosed''.

Ms Wilson said she only recently became aware she had been accused of blackmail, believing she was being investigated only over the possibility she might have contravened election rules.

She was not happy to be associated with any smear campaign, and maintained she had acted professionally and was not paid.

''A smear campaign implies you have made up things.

''Everything I was writing about was factual.

''I was doing my job.''

None of the redacted documents contains the names of anyone associated with the suggested smear campaign.

However, in one, Mr Boult said: ''I am concerned at [redacted] actions [redacted] in following through a vendetta against me.''

mark.price@odt.co.nz

Comments

Good on her for asking the hard questions. Technocrats need to be accountable to the people they serve, not the other way around. After all, if you can not run a company well, then how can you run a community with all its complexities well?

If a person standing for public office is associated with a company that goes bust, and is subsequently facing court action for their conduct relating to that collapse, how can that information not be in the public interest? How on earth could investigating those matters be construed as a vendetta or blackmail? It's called investigative journalism and it's about establishing facts that the public should be aware of before voting for someone. If you're going to run a council, you need to know how to run a business surely? How can that not be relevant? It's incredibly worrying when public officials go after journalists who are just doing their jobs. This is straight out of the Trump copybook and should be resisted and called out.

 

 

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