5 Feb 2020

New accusations levelled at Jami-Lee Ross

4:23 pm on 5 February 2020

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is facing a workplace investigation after complaints which have seen three of the four staff in his Botany office placed on special leave.

Jami-Lee Ross speaks to media after making a complaint to police about National Party leader, Simon Bridges.

Jami-Lee Ross. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A source with knowledge of the situation told RNZ that Parliamentary Service had initiated an independent inquiry after fresh complaints about Ross' "actions and behaviour" including "alleged bullying of staff".

But Ross - now an independent MP - has hit back, suggesting the reports of "relatively standard work place inquiries" were politically motivated and driven by his former National colleagues.

In a statement to RNZ, Ross confirmed "a process [was] underway with some staff taking leave", but said he was "in the dark" about the nature of any allegations.

"I have not yet received a copy of any complaint despite asking for this," he said.

"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. Otherwise it is work as usual."

Parliamentary Service declined to comment.

In his statement, Ross suggested "political adversaries" within National could have leaked information about the investigation to see him isolated and under attack.

"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 knows, but I am doing my best to do so."

A spokesperson for the National Party told RNZ it had nothing to with today's story and had no interest in talking about Ross.

Ross said he was unable to comment further as Parliamentary Service had requested complete confidentiality.

"I welcome the opportunity to engage in a fair process, where natural justice applies and thorough information gathering with all perspectives considered.

"It appears that a party has breached Parliamentary Service's request for confidentiality and is attempting a 'trial by media'. "

The MP's Botany office was still operating "on slightly reduced hours" and would open again after Waitangi Day, Ross said.

No one was present when RNZ visited the office this morning.

In late 2018, Ross quit the National Party in explosive fashion, accusing the leader Simon Bridges of being a "corrupt politician". Bridges denied any wrong-doing and was not charged by a subsequent Serious Fraud Office inquiry.

Days later, the website Newsroom published the accounts of four anonymous women who accused Ross of bullying and harassment. Ross disputed the story, but admitted to having affairs with two women.

The allegations prompted Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard to order an inquiry into Parliament's culture.

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