Barclay refused to cooperate with police

National MP Todd Barclay refused to cooperate with detectives carrying out an investigation into allegations he had secretly recorded staff in his electorate office, according to documents released from the official police investigation.

Todd Barclay (left) took over the seat from Prime Minister Bill English in 2014. Photo: ODT
Todd Barclay (left) took over the seat from Prime Minister Bill English in 2014. Photo: ODT

Instead, Mr Barclay did not return phone messages left for him by the lead detective on the inquiry and had a lawyer contact police to say he would not be making a statement.

Mr Barclay had earlier told the Otago Daily Times: "If they do contact me on any matter, then I will co-operate fully.''

The police investigation was into whether Mr Barclay had breached a section of the Crimes Act around "use of interception devices".

The police investigation file was released through the Official Information Act and gives a detailed account of the breakdown in relations between staff working in the Clutha-Southland and Mr Barclay, who took over the seat from Prime Minister Bill English in 2014.

Mr Barclay entered Parliament that year aged 24 and was the first MP to be elected from the 1990s. His role as the local MP has been wrought with controversy over the allegation he illegally recorded his staff.

There were no charges laid following the 10-month long investigation with police eventually stating there was insufficient evidence.

The allegation led to division among the previously united Clutha-Southland National Party, which has a membership said to be 1500-strong. It led to Mr Barclay facing - and surviving - a selection challenge from Simon Flood, a former Merrill Lynch banker.

The investigation file includes a statement from Detective Inspector Antony Hill detailing attempts he had made to arrange an interview with Mr Barclay about the allegations.

He said he was brought in to manage the investigation in March last year and contacted Mr Barclay twice in July 2016 to request an interview about the claims which had been made.

The first attempt to contact Mr Barclay by telephone took place on July 12 2016 with Det Insp Hill's call going to an answer message. He was sent a text saying Mr Barclay was out of the country until July 29 2016.

On July 29 2016, Det Insp Hill tried to reach Mr Barclay and again left a message. His statement reads: "I subsequently received a call from Mr Barclay's solicitor advising he would not be making a statement in relation to this investigation."

While Mr Barclay had earlier said he would cooperate with police, he later said he had not spoken with detectives.

In November, he said: "I have not spoken to the police about any alleged complaint. Parliamentary Services is responsible for staffing issues so, at the end of the day, they are the employer and it's not appropriate for them, or me, to be talking about employment matters."

Asked directly if police had asked to speak with him, he said: "As I have made clear, I have not spoken to the police about any alleged complaint."

The names of the staff members were blacked out in the police release but the NZ Herald and Otago Daily Times have been able to confirm the identities of those who were interviewed.

The inquiry began with a complaint to police by his electorate agent Glenys Dickson, who had worked for English for 17 years. Electorate agents are employed by Parliamentary Services but work closely with MPs and often act on the MP's behalf during a politician's absence.

On February 29 2016, Mrs Dickson told a detective sergeant at Gore police station she had been asked to stand down as manager despite a positive performance appraisal. At the same time, she had heard discussion in the community about a "breach of confidentiality".

She contacted an employment lawyer and said she was told it was a case of "unfair dismissal".

The lawyer then approached Parliamentary Services to put forward conditions around leaving the job and severance pay.

"They also told her about the recordings that Todd had," she said to police. The lawyer contacted Parliamentary Services for further discussions and was told it had changed position on her exit and her initial offer had been accepted.

"It seemed strange they had changed their decision so quickly within a day," she said.

"I have real concerns some of my private conversations have been listened to and recorded. My expectation is that I would have been able to make private and personal calls from my office without them being listened to.

"None of the staff were ever notified by Parliamentary Services that any phone calls were to be monitored."

She said she had been told by another person who dealt with Parliamentary Services that Mr Barclay had recordings of conversations she had. "I have no idea how these recordings would have been done."

Mrs Dickson told police of a conversation she said she had with Mr Barclay in January 2016 in which he was alleged to have said "he could go to Spark and pay $5000 and get copies of my telephone conversations".

"This was certainly said as a threat. He said that to me in his office."

MP challenged 

The breakdown of relations took place against a backdrop of suspicion and clashes between Mrs Dickson and Mr Barclay.

She told police: "I stood up to him and challenged him on a number of issues as I believed it was quite inappropriate the way that he was behaving."

She said there was also dissatisfaction from those in the community. "Some of these conversations were around Todd's performance issues and some of these people not happy with the way things had been done (by) Todd."

Another staff member in the electorate office told of a phone call from Mr Barclay on the day Mrs Dickson was meeting with Parliamentary Services to discuss deteriorating relations. He told her it was "really important I got all the locks changed in the office".

The file also includes an interview with former electorate chairman Stuart Davie, who resigned during the breakdown of relations. He said he had confronted Mr Barclay with the allegations and was told: "I did not tap any phones."

The police investigation appears to have been hampered by rules around seeking search warrants for any premises controlled by Parliamentary Services.

Police also considered getting a search warrant for Mr Barclay’s home to look for a dictaphone, the documents show. However, the papers show that there was a hope he would provide the device voluntarily.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read asked Det Insp Hill to consider the issue at the same time he gave him the green light to go ahead with seeking an interview with Mr Barclay.

“We will need to have the capability to execute search warrant(s) if necessary for the Dictaphone. I would prefer that we asked him to provide it by consent at the time we conduct the interview.”

Det Supt Read told Det Insp Hill there were special rules for seeking to search politician’s property.

Barclay statement

In a statement today, Todd Barclay blamed the police complaint and subsequent investigation on a ''breakdown in the employment relationship''.

''I had received complaints about the conduct of a staff member from members of the public and I referred the matter to Parliamentary Services.

"As the legal employer of support staff, they acted as they deemed appropriate and embarked on a disciplinary process. It is an employment matter and as I’ve said in the past I can’t go into details through the media.

“During the process my lawyer was asked by Police if I wanted to make a statement. We talked about it and decided to decline the Police’s invitation, as is my right.

“The Police looked into a complaint made by the former staff member and decided not to take it any further – that’s the end of the matter for me,'' Mr Barclay's statement said.

Matter dealt with, says PM

Prime Minister Bill English today refused to comment on Todd Barclay's lack of co-operation with police, saying the matter had been resolved.

"It was an employment dispute, the police have had a look at it, he's been re-selected, and I think that's pretty much the end of it."

Mr English would also not comment on his involvement in the investigation.

"I was the local MP, I knew the two people pretty well, but I'm not going to comment any further than that."

He was disappointed with the disagreements in his old seat, but said it was "time for everyone to move on".

Landslide victory in South 

Todd Barclay entered Parliament as a National Party MP in 2014 with a landslide victory in one of the safest seats in the country.

Aged just 24, he seemed certain to enjoy a Parliamentary career as long as he was willing to stand as the successor to Prime Minister Bill English in the Clutha-Southland electorate.

Mr Barclay was born in Gore in 1990, the first of the country's MPs to be born in that decade, and then raised in Southland's Dipton.

The small town was also the seat of English's support for many years, before he moved to Wellington. The year of Mr Barclay's birth was the same year English entered Parliament.

Mr Barclay's parents Maree and Paul Barclay ran the local Four Square and post office before the family moved to Gore.

After finishing Gore High School, Todd Barclay went to Victoria University in Wellington with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in commercial law.

His first stint at work gave him the opportunity to see how a country was run with work experience for then-Prime Minister John Key, English and Cabinet ministers Gerry Brownlee and Hekia Parata.

He left those roles for a job with the public relation firm SweeneyVesty before becoming corporate affairs manager for the cigarette company Philip Morris.

He told Fairfax after his election: "The company's a legal company selling a legal product. No smoker, or non-smoker in the country can say they're not aware of the consequences of smoking and that they didn't know where to go to seek assistance if they want to quit."

Entering Parliament, Mr Barclay took on the role of deputy chair of the law and order select committee.

He also created controversy following selection with a casual dig at Campbell Live on social media after it was announced the show was under review. He later deleted his comment: "No surprises that it's only Labour Party MPs scrambling to keep Campbell Live running... #goodjobmikehosking."

But the upset he caused Campbell Live supporters was nothing compared to that which beset the 1500-strong membership of the National Party in his electorate when it emerged police were investigating claims he had recorded staff working in his office.

First staff member Glenys Dickson left the electorate office after working there for 18 years. Her departure was followed by the resignation of electorate chairman Stuart Davie. Other staff members also resigned.

Over the 10 months police investigated, Mr Barclay had claimed he had not been spoken to by police. It was eventually announced no charges would be laid because of insufficient evidence.

"After consideration of all relevant information and the Solicitor-general's prosecution guidelines, police has determined that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute," a statement from police said.

Mr Barclay issued a statement saying: "I welcome this decision and pleased that we can move on. I'm looking forward to continuing to engage with National Party members about what my team and I have been working on over the last three years, and my plans to keep up the momentum for Clutha-Southland into 2017."

There were reports of concern over his "performance" when it came to being selected for the seat again. Heavy-hitters such as Cabinet minister Judith Collins were seen to be supporting the young MP, as was Jonathan Coleman.

There was also heavy online lobbying and sledging from the Whaleoil website, which has previously aligned itself with Collins.

Mr Barclay won selection, beating former Merrill Lynch investment fund manager Simon Flood for the candidacy.

Timeline  

1990: Todd Barclay is born.
1992: The Barclay family moves to Dipton, the home of National Party stalwart and current Prime Minister Bill English.
2010: Todd Barclay is attending Victoria University while doing work experience in English's office. He  follows with paid work for John Key, Gerry Brownlee and Hekia Parata.
2014: Wins the Clutha-Southland electorate, taking over from English.
2015: An ill-judged tweet praising the review of Campbell Live is deleted.
2016: Police investigate allegations Mr Barclay secretly recorded staff in his office. No charges are laid.
2017: Mr Barclay wins selection to stand for the electorate again.​

- By David Fisher, Eileen Goodwin and Nicholas Jones

- NZ Herald and ODT

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