Todd Barclay has been caught giving another false statement, this time to the media about complaints against a former staffer
Accusations of falsehoods continue to surface about embattled National MP Todd Barclay.
The Clutha-Southland representative has been in the spotlight after Newsroom revealed he had clandestinely taped an employee, who received a secret payment from former Prime Minister John Key’s leader’s budget to make the issue go away.
The revelations led to an explosive day in Parliament after Prime Minister Bill English initially told media he could not recall if Barclay had informed him about the recording, before changing his mind four hours later.
English had, in fact, told police in a statement that Barclay had told him, face-to-face, that he had recorded staffer Glenys Dickson on a dictaphone.
Further details of Barclay’s behaviour can now be revealed, which could lead to a defamation case against the young MP.
After the allegations broke in the media, Barclay has repeatedly dodged questions, citing confidentiality around employment disputes.
But earlier this year the NZ Herald published a story based on the redacted version of the police investigation file into whether Barclay had breached a section of the Crimes Act around “use of interception devices”.
In a statement provided to the media organisation, Barclay said there had been complaints about the staff member (Dickson), who had been reprimanded.
“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.”
But in a letter from the Parliamentary Service to Dickson, seen by Newsroom, general manager David Stevenson said no complaints existed.
“…Parliamentary Service has neither received any complaint about you nor has it carried out any employment investigation or taken any disciplinary action against you (Dickson).”
Dickson told Newsroom that Barclay’s comments were misleading, defamatory, and “totally dishonest”.
After reading Barclay’s statement, she had followed up with the Parliamentary Service as she was unaware of any problems.
“Well I’ve actually contacted Parliamentary Services and the manager of Parliamentary Services has got nothing on record because I didn’t know about any complaints, so I thought I needed to follow up on that. There are no complaints, and there is no disciplinary action taken at all.”
It was infuriating to hear that Barclay had issued such a dishonest statement in public, she said.
“I’m very angry, very upset, and to use somebody and discredit them for your own promotion is not something that I admire at all.”
Dickson also said she was upset with Barclay repeatedly saying he could not comment on the matter of the recording because it was an employment issue.
“I think it’s rubbish, it’s not an employment issue, and it’s really just trying to cover up what really went on.”
Despite several emails and calls to Barclay, he did not respond to requests for comment.
Defamation lawyer Peter McKnight said on the surface, it appeared Dickson would have a reasonable case to pursue.
“I mean, people reading that would think ‘hello, she is something that warrants an investigation and there was an investigation and she’s acted in a way that required it’. “You’ve just got to put yourself in the position of that person, would you like to read of you [what’s] being said of you? I wouldn’t.”
But Canterbury University’s Ursula Cheer, a media and defamation expert, said it would depend on who had identified the defamed person.
If the MP had issued a statement without identifying the person, but the media had identified the person in the wider story then the media company could be liable.
The Parliamentary Service declined to comment.