Barclay Debacle: An Exclusive Interview with Melanie Reid
A Newsroom investigation has revealed a young Clutha-Southland National MP secretly recorded a long-standing member of staff amid an employment dispute. Todd Barclay, the MP in question, initially denied allegations of the recordings and speaking to Prime Minister Bill English about it. However, Bill English has contradicted this in a statement released last night detailing how the PM had in fact been told about the recordings almost a year ago. In an exclusive interview, 95bFM reporter Adam Jacobson speaks with Newsroom investigative journalist Melanie Reid regarding the investigation.
Adam Jacobson: Firstly, could you walk us through the controversy surrounding Todd Barclay?
Melanie Reid: What essentially has happened, is that the MP in the Clutha-Southland electorate, secretly recorded his staff member. Her name was Glenys Dickson. She'd worked previously for Bill English for 17 years in Gore and when Barclay became the MP in 2014, her job rolled over and she started working for him.
Now what he did, he used an interception device to record her, after there had been bit of a debacle over an incident in Queenstown.
A: What exactly was this incident?
M: Legally, it's a bit hard for me to talk about these things. So, what I will say is that there was an incident, or a situation in Queenstown. Barclay had a big gig the next day at the Telford University where he was the guest of honor and he didn't turn up. It was the straw that broke the camel's back if you like, because there had been a number of other incidents.
That's not really the point, the point here is that he used an inception device. He basically bugged her office, and then he got the information of her talking to constituents about really private information, such as health scenarios. He got her talking about him and her displeasure of him; about what had gone on. He then used that recording against her to try and get her fired. But the point is he used an interception device which is illegal, and it's up to two years imprisonment. So I think people remember what happened with the teapot tapes, when the guy recorded John key, we probably also remember about the guy who bugged the All Blacks in Sydney and what happened to him.
So the issue here is that he did this, and then very soon after everybody knew. Parliamentary Services knew, which was Glenys' employer. Bill English knew. John Key knew, and the board knew.
A: As I understand, Bill English and John Key both covered up the fact they had known about this; with Bill English only recently revealing that he had been told of the incident. Why do you think they would hide all of this?
M: Well what happened is that when Glenys Dickson found out that she'd been recorded, she went to an employment lawyer. The employment lawyer was told by Parliamentary Services yes there was a recording; and what happened is that part of her severance pay was paid from the Prime Minister's budget, which is highly unusual.
Now, John key, lets not forget was the Prime Minister. The issue here is that everybody knew and why did they not just get rid of Barclay there and then; you can't be an MP doing sneaky little unlawful things like bugging your staff's office. That's the big question, why didn't they get rid of him there and then.
What eventuated was a complete debacle in the South Island, in the Clutha-Southland electorate, because there were all the people that knew that Glenys had been recorded, and went, "We can't have an MP that has done this." Then there was all the people that believed Barclay when he stood up and bare face lied, and said, "I never, I can categorically assure you I did not do a recording."
So the story that I did was the proof that there was a recording, and the proof that Bill English knew, and the proof that John Key knew, and the proof that the board knew, and that everybody knew. Yet there had been this facade by everyone for the last year, saying "Oh its an employment issue" or "Oh it's a disaffected member of the staff." When asked directly about all of this, he just dodged and weaved.
Let's not forgot, there was then a police investigation, which is part of my story. So the police then investigate Barclay about whether or not he's committed an illegal act. There's a big issue here as well, and there's a lot of talk about the police giving him an incredibly soft ride.
A: As I understand, the police didn't even speak to Barclay regarding the allegations of recording.
M: If you were at the centre of some allegation with the police, and they had this evidence, [and said], "I want to go through this evidence with you". They had text messages from the Prime Minister saying that you'd been involved. They had information from Parliamentary services saying that there had been a tape. They had police statements, saying the Prime Minister has told me that Todd Barclay recorded me.
And you said I don't think I'll come in and participate in this investigation. What do you think would have happened to you?
A: I could have imagined it would place me in a very tricky situation.
M: Do you not think that the police would have not come round and got you? Well I think we all know that if you have allegedly committed a crime, and there is that much evidence stacked against you, the squad car would come round pretty fast. I mean I've seen it many, many times before with far less evidence than what was against Todd Barclay.
It is a very big question because it affects the credibility of the police and their inquiry. They accepted a "No thanks" for Barclay when they sought an interview. They did not seek search warrants for his office or his home and they closed the case despite Bill English, who was the finance minister at the time, confirming Barclay had told him he's recorded his staff member without her knowledge.
A: What is your view on the police coming out today claiming they will be reopening the investigation. Will anything new come to light?
M: They have to reopen the investigation, they've got so much egg on their face it's embarrassing. What we know now is that there have been more lies than you can count. There is a recording. That the highest people in government knew there was a recording. The whole National Party board knew there was a recording Parliamentary Services knew there was a recording.
A: He has come out saying he will not resign, which comes across as a little bit strong-headed in such a situation that he has found himself in at the moment.
M: It's an interesting stance isn't it. When you've lied all day yesterday straight to the media; you've been dodging things for a year, and you've clearly committed an illegal, unlawful act.
The country have to ask themselves, it's that the sort of politician you want in the house? because, I'm not a political reporter, but we are 100 days out from the election and clearly this is a big election issue. Its at the very heart of the trust and confidence in the government and you've got Todd Barclay standing there. Bill English has traded on a squeaky clean image, and he's obviously suffering enormous brand damage.
For the full interview, click here.