State services commissioner Iain Rennie has weighed into the Judith Collins resignation controversy overnight. Mr Rennie has defended the embattled former Justice Minister overall but also flagged a possible concern over new allegations made yesterday.
Yesterday, Ms Collins resigned as the Prime Minister released a "smoking gun" email between Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater, "Carrick" (presumably PR operative Carrick Graham), "Mark" and a third person whose name is blanked out. In the email, Mr Slater says he has spoken to Ms Collins at length about Serious Fraud Office Adam Feeley, and that the Justice Minister is "gunning" for the SFO boss. Mr Graham's clients include at least one person who was under investigation by the SFO at the time.
Mr Rennie's statement had bad news for Ms Collins with its line that, "I am extremely concerned by an allegation that a minister has associated with third parties to discuss influencing my assessment of a public service chief executive. If true, this would be wholly unacceptable."
But the commissioner backed the justice minister overall, saying "I told the Prime Minister’s Office that Judith Collins had a positive view of Mr Feeley’s performance through her time as Minister responsible for the Serious Fraud Office.
"The commission has reviewed its documentation and sought the recollections of staff responsible for the SFO portfolio at the time in coming to this view. This includes the period following the date of the email in October 2011 released by the Prime Minister."
Slater lays privacy complaint against PM
Cameron Slater has told media he is laying a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner against Prime Minister John Key for releasing the email which led to Ms Collins' resignation.
Yesterday, Mr Key refused to say who forwarded the email to his office.
Mr Slater says the PM released his private communication, "That he a) had no right to have and b) didn't seek permission to release it from me. Those are my communications and, like Nicky Hager, he has breached my privacy."
He added, "I'm not what you would call angry. I'm disappointed that the Prime Minister used my private communications to justify the dismissal of Judith Collins."
If the the rules apply to Nicky Hager, they should also apply to the Prime Minister, the Whale Oil blogger said.
It has been a busy week for Privacy Commissioner John Edwards.
On Wednesday, Mr Edwards defended his decision not to yield to the Greens' demand he investigate Ms Collins over personal details of alleged whistleblowing civil servant Simon Pleasants being forwarded to Whale Oil.
And although it was drowned out by other events yesterday, the commissioner confirmed to NBR that he would investigate a complaint by ACC complainant Bronwyn Pullar against Ms Collins.
This morning, Mr Edwards said he was not immediately aware of a complaint from Mr Slater but expected an update when he returned to the office.
RAW DATA: Statement from State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie
"The State Services Commission was contacted by the Prime Minister's Office over the last 24 hours on this issue."
“Any activity that undermines, or has the potential to undermine, the trust and confidence in the public service to impartially serve the interests of the government and New Zealanders is a matter of concern to me.”
"It is important that Chief Executives and Ministers mutually support each other to carry out their respective roles, in order to work together to serve the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders. Ministers are entitled to hold public servants to high standards of trust and performance and, in turn, should respect the role the public service plays.
"I am therefore extremely concerned by an allegation that a Minister has associated with third parties to discuss influencing my assessment of a Public Service Chief Executive. If true, this would be wholly unacceptable.
"I told the Prime Minister’s Office that Judith Collins had a positive view of Mr Feeley’s performance through her time as Minister responsible for the Serious Fraud Office."
"The Commission has reviewed its documentation and sought the recollections of staff responsible for the SFO portfolio at the time in coming to this view. This includes the period following the date of the email in October 2011 released today by the Prime Minister. Earlier in 2011, Judith Collins had raised with me the appropriateness of Mr Feeley’s consumption of a bottle of champagne following a media inquiry.
“It was appropriate that she spoke to me about this matter and my view on the matter was released publicly at the time."
"Any campaign to undermine my confidence in Adam Feeley’s performance was entirely ineffective and unsuccessful. He was a strongly performing Chief Executive through his tenure for his work in transforming the SFO and vigorously pursuing criminal conduct in respect of finance company collapses.”
I would be very happy to consider Mr Feeley’s return to the Public Service in the future.”