Jami-Lee Ross says he hasn’t acted ‘inappropriately’
Controversial MP Jami-Lee Ross has broken his silence on a new investigation into the way he treated staff at his Botany office, saying he has been kept in the dark over the allegations made by three staffers.
The Parliamentary Service has granted three of the Independent MP’s four staff special leave while their complaints are investigated.
Newsroom has since learned that the allegations against Ross, from two female and one male staff member, include rude and disrespectful behaviour, making inappropriate comments, acting in a controlling manner and allegedly showing favouritism towards a female staff member.
Ross says his office remains open but is operating on reduced hours.
Today, the MP put out a statement to all media after failing to respond to Newsroom when asked yesterday to comment on the allegations.
Ross said he was aware “there is a process under way with some staff taking leave”, but was currently in the dark over the details of the allegations.
“I have not yet received a copy of any complaint despite asking for this. While I don’t accept that I have acted in an inappropriate manner, the job, for all in the team, is performed under high pressure and stress at times. As a result and with a small team of assigned staff, not all personalities can or do gel. If I am meant to have said anything that has offended or upset any employee, once I know what this is, I will confront that.”
The MP said he hoped he would be given the chance to clear his name.
“I welcome the opportunity to engage in a fair process, where natural justice applies and thorough information gathering with all perspectives considered. Because this is an employment matter, the Parliamentary Service has requested complete confidentiality. It appears that a party has breached Parliamentary Service’s request for confidentiality and is attempting a 'trial by media'. However I will respect this request and I am unable to comment further at the moment. But, I will when I known (sic) more and can.”
In his statement, Ross appears to blame his political enemies for stirring up trouble.
“I have a number of political adversaries who seek to see me isolated and under attack for their own political advantage. Reports of these relatively standard work place inquiries, which provide a chance to repeat past and untested allegations, surely can be seen as being politically motivated by those who want see me out of a job and away from a place where I can hold them to account, including former colleagues. Many are concerned with what I know and what I can say, and would prefer to see me stand down or resign so I remain silent. This is not a new pressure, and at times has been very difficult to manage, as every one (sic) knows, but I am doing my best to do so. “
The past allegations that Ross refers to date back to 2018 when Newsroom revealed the former National MP had bullied or harassed seven women – two cases involving sexual relationships.
One woman said at the time that Ross targeted her for a relationship which evolved into controlling behaviour, “incoherent rages” and “brutal sex”, while another said she believed he used their affair to manipulate her for information about key National Party figures.
Three of the women said they had breakdowns, with two of them seeking medical help.
Following the revelations Ross was briefly detained under the Mental Health Act after going missing one night.
The Newsroom investigation was published at the same time as Ross had spectacularly fallen out with National when an internal investigation found he had leaked leader Simon Bridges' expenses to the media.
Ross then quit the National Party, but not before accusing Bridges of corruption in relation to a $100,000 donation from a wealthy Chinese businessman.
The Serious Fraud Office last month laid charges against four individuals following an investigation into the claims, but Bridges said neither he nor National Party secretary Greg Hamilton were among those charged.
Neither the Parliamentary Service nor Speaker Trevor Mallard would comment on the current investigation into Ross when Newsroom approached them yesterday.
The lack of oversight by the Parliamentary Service was heavily criticised by the women who accused Ross of bullying them when he was a National MP.
When Newsroom spoke to the same women yesterday, none were surprised by the news Ross was facing new allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
"After so many vulnerable women came forward with their stories and experiences, it's simply unbelievable that Parliamentary Services could send more lambs to the slaughter. There has obviously been no reflection of the ordeals we went through while working for Jami-Lee Ross, and what they could have done to help us as our employer,” said one former staff member.
Another said the current situation was predictable because the Parliamentary Service had failed to help her: “I went to them a number of times so they were fully aware of the bullying situation getting progressively worse. As far as I am concerned, Parliamentary Services have a lot to answer for.”
Ross became an Independent MP in late 2018, and after reuniting with his wife, Lucy Schwaner, he wrote a letter to his Botany constituents asking not to be judged "on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction".
Ross is hoping to defend the Botany seat in the September general election against National's new candidate, former Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon.
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