Politics

Aaron Gilmore in gun over ‘spiteful’ email

Former National MP Aaron Gilmore is in hot water again, with an ex employee contemplating further legal action after he referred to her as a “sad, pathetic, childless” woman.

In December, Gilmore was warned that he faced the threat of a jail term if his company Mighty Rocket Properties failed to pay former employee Amanda High a settlement reached as part of an employment dispute.

That Employment Relations Authority (ERA) determination came after a long-running dispute between Mighty Rocket and High, after she lodged a personal grievance case.

High’s lawyer Greg Lloyd told Newsroom that Gilmore had refused to settle after his client raised her personal grievance, instead getting a lawyer to contest the matter.

Gilmore had then refused to pay in full an agreed settlement of $19,000 to High and a further $10,000 in legal fees by the required date, leading to the ERA ordering him last December to pay in full rather than “random partial payments”.

While Gilmore had eventually paid the full sums “just in the nick of time”, Lloyd said the former MP had sent an offensive email to him saying “really spiteful, nasty, ugly things” about High.

In the January 30 email confirming the final payments had been made, Gilmore said he had decided against challenging the ruling “despite my legal advice to appeal all your and the many ERA mistakes”.

“As per one of my now former staff best said - who is only 22 ‘boss surely we all have far more important things to do with our lives than still argue with this sad pathetic childless unmarried idiotic probably now unemployable 50 year old woman’ [sic].”

While he claimed two key witnesses “would make [High] and you look complete liars”, his seven staff members had decided unanimously against pursuing the issue further.

“As per one of my now former staff best said - who is only 22 ‘boss surely we all have far more important things to do with our lives than still argue with this sad pathetic childless unmarried idiotic probably now unemployable 50 year old woman’ [sic].”

Lloyd said Gilmore’s remarks may have violated the non-disparagement provisions of the settlement, while it also appeared that he had been discussing the employment relationship with his employees in breach of the confidentiality requirements.

“When parties enter into full and final record of settlement, it’s important for everyone that it’s exactly that: full and final and people can move on with their lives, both the employer and the employee.”

It was “extremely unlikely” that the seven employees mentioned by Gilmore would all have been working at his company when High’s employment came to an end, suggesting their knowledge of the situation came from an account provided by Gilmore.

Lloyd said High was considering a number of legal options in response, including a further order requiring Gilmore to comply with the provisions of the original settlement.

She could also pursue financial penalties for a breach of the record of settlement, which would be paid to the Crown but could be received by High. in part or full. through a separate application.

While Lloyd believed it was highly likely a penalty would be imposed, he said High needed to weigh up any action against the negatives of “engaging in more acrimonious litigation after it took so long to bring the case to an end”.

'Very hurtful'

High could not comment in detail given the confidentiality provisions in the settlement, but said Gilmore’s email was “pretty shocking” given the long process to reach a conclusion.

“As someone who has lost a couple of children in my late 30s and I choose to be single, it was very very hurtful...

“We thought that it was all over, it was all done and dusted, then that came through on the day the last payment came through.”

The ERA last year ruled out damages for allegedly disparaging remarks made by Mighty Rocket in its response to High’s proceedings, saying its statement in reply was covered by privilege.

A request for comment from Gilmore, sent to a phone number listed under his name, led to a response saying the message had “been referred on to our company owner, who does not wish to provide any comment other than below”.

“We consider any comments about Ms High made to her lawyer are factually correct. We understand you possess private emails between our company and her lawyer.

The person said Gilmore had not described High as sad, pathetic and childless, but “merely passed on in an email a quote” from a former employee.

“We have had no contact from Ms High or her lawyer in months. Ms High left our employment 18 months ago and all matters regarding Ms High are her own problem since then.”

In response to a further query, the person said Gilmore had not described High as sad, pathetic and childless, but “merely passed on in an email a quote” from a former employee.

All Mighty Rocket employees at the time of High’s departure witnessed her behaviour and supported the company’s view over hers, the person said.

Gilmore was the subject of a number of scandals during his brief stint as an MP.

In 2010, Gilmore blamed the Parliamentary Service for an error in his CV listing him as a member of the Chartered Financial Institute, a qualification he did not hold.

After dropping out of Parliament at the 2011 election but returning via National’s list in 2013 following a resignation, Gilmore was himself forced to quit after allegedly threatening to get Prime Minister John Key to fire a waiter who would not serve him more alcohol.

It also emerged that Gilmore’s contract at MBIE had not been renewed after he sent “inappropriate” messages to a Treasury official.

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