The former National MP accused of bullying and cheating during his time in Parliament has written to all his Botany constituents asking not to be judged “on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction”.
Jami-Lee Ross resigned from the National Party before its caucus voted to expel him after he accused his former leader Simon Bridges of being corrupt and called for his ouster.
He revealed taped conversations with Bridges and claimed payments to the National Party from a Chinese backer had been deliberately laundered to avoid electoral funding rules.
Yesterday the police investigation into his claims was referred to the Serious Fraud Office, providing Ross with some vindication for his theatrical revelations and visit to Wellington police station to provide his evidence.
For Ross, that allegation was overwhelmed by revelations by around six women to Newsroom in October that Ross had bullied them in the workplace and harassed or manipulated them, two having had affairs with the MP.
Ross was briefly detained under the Mental Health Act after going missing one night soon after the explosive week of political, electoral funding and personal revelations.
He has returned to work as an Independent MP, seeking multiple media opportunities and reportedly having been reunited with his wife, Lucy Schwaner.
His letter to voters in Botany says the ‘distraction’ of his personal and health matters has been dealt with and “I am back working full time … to prove to you that I am still the strong local voice you have known, working for Botany and representing you in Parliament.”
The MP takes the chance to criticise the former National-led government which he was a part of. “I also feel an obligation to be more up front about the areas where the previous government did not get things right.
“We didn’t get the likes of immigration under control and we did not give police enough resourcing to stop the growth in crime rates.
“Worst of all, a generation of young people are now priced out of the housing market because we did not reform the RMA to open up more land for housing. The [Auckland] council that we established still puts too much expensive red tape in the way of development and doesn’t control costs.”
Ross writes: “As your independent voice for Botany, I can speak up on these issues now instead of being forced to toe the party line.”
As a man without a party, he declares: “My contract is with you as local constituents first and foremost, and should always trump any political party matters.”
In a clear hint that he will spend his time seeking re-election, Ross then asks “for the opportunity to prove my value to this local community again through the hard yards of being Botany’s voice and representative”.
“Please judge me on a 15-year track record of work, past and present, not on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction.”
The MP then offers to speak anywhere, and take any call from his constituents as he seeks to re-engage.
“I am willing to front up to any group, large of small, to discuss local or national issues of the day, no matter how contentious,” and “You are welcome to call me anytime. No issue or question is too big or small to discuss.”
An inquiry into workplace bullying at Parliament was launched by the Speaker, Trevor Mallard, in the wake of the revelations about Ross’ behaviour. The inquiry, by experienced bullying and harassment reviewer Debbie Francis, is due in May.
The Serious Fraud investigation was made public yesterday in a two sentence statement from police:
“Police have referred to the Serious Fraud Office a complaint received in October last year in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act.
“The complaint has been referred to the SFO as they hold the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date.”
Ross held a press conference claiming he had been doubted repeatedly but each time in this controversy had proven his critics wrong.