Herald aids harassment of National and Katrina Bungard

Two publications from NZ Herald yesterday have unfairly applied extra pressure on the National Party and National MPS and employees over the Jami-Lee Ross issue. They also add to the stress faced by one complainant, Katrina Bungard, who issued a statement yesterday which says she was appalled a meeting between herself and the rogue MP has been “rashly speculated” upon.

The National Party has received a lot of criticism for the way it has handled Jami-Lee Ross over the years, and how they have handled the leak and the following train wreck which has resulted in the commitment of Ross into mental health care.

I have no doubt that in some ways fault will be found with how National handled it, how Simon Bridges handled it, how Paula Bennett handled it, and how party president Peter Goodfellow handled it. It was an extraordinary situation and will have been very difficult to deal with, and mistakes are certain to have been made, and ‘best practice will be open to question, That’s all fair enough.

What isn’t fair is misrepresentation in media that has aided what amounts to harassment of National. Bridges, Bennett, Goodfellow et al may not be suffering from mental illness like Ross, but this will have put them under stress. Their mental health should also be considered.

The media have also had a difficult job to do over the last week in particular. They have also made mistakes and on review should find that they could have done things better.

Yesterday I saw two NZ Herald publications that added to what I think is unfair criticism and pressure on people from National.

NZ Herald: Jami-Lee Ross ‘sectioned’ to mental health facility

In this the Herald included a quote from the National Party which made it look like they were involved in the ‘sectioning’ of Ross. This resulted in criticism on Twitter and elsewhere in social media, where people claimed that National had had Ross committed to silence him.

Like ‘WeTheBleeple’ at The Standard:

Sounds like someone stamped some papers to shut him up. Can’t make coherent statements pumped full of drugs.

This is very seriously scummy.

Dennis Frank:

A reasonable point of view, given the history of how mental health diagnoses have been used to eliminate political rivals in various countries. We need to wait & see how the media report that police got involved today. Media haven’t reported any diagnosis from his prior breakdown(s) as far as I know.

To their credit several challenged this (and other similar comments), like:

Nonsense the police and health professionals do not use their powers to behave in this manner, frankly I find your assertion offenssive.

But it didn’t stop, Half an hour later:

Sounds very much like National did it “Out of concern for his mental health”.

If that is so, the entire party should be disbanded as a corrupt criminal organisation and charges laid against anyone and everyone obstructing the truth and the law.

This is repulsive.

The Herald was challenged on Twitter:

Two hours later:

The Herald changed their story, deleting the dated quote and saying this:

It is understood the National Party is continuing to offer Ross support, though it is unclear it if was involved in Ross’ admission to the facility.

Too late, the attacks on National were raging.

Another article (‘Comment)’at the Herald which posted online at the same time this was raging – David Cormack: National needs to learn to care about people which started:

It has not been a good week for the National Party. It has revealed a craven history of enabling alleged harassment and bullying, making it unfit for governing.

Cormack promoted that on Twitter where he was receiving support for sticking it to National.

Cormack responded with a link to RNZ National aware of Jami-Lee Ross grievances for years whikch opens with:

The National Party has known for a couple of years about grievances regarding Jami-Lee Ross’ conduct, and got one complainant to sign a confidentiality agreement, sources have told Checkpoint.

I replied with: That says “got one complainant to sign a confidentiality agreement”, which could be quite different to “made the complainant sign a non-disclosure agreement”. I have seen no indication she signed it unwillingly. Have you?

Cormack has not responded since then, but someone else did: FFS Pete, stop dissembling and nitpicking. Those details just don’t matter.

I think that details like that do matter. National has been hammered over the non-disclosure agreement. I think that whether an agreement should have been signed or not us up for debate, but what those slamming it seem to keep ignoring is what the person who signed it thinks.

Katrina Bungard put out a statement yesterday (Stuff): National Party’s Katrina Bungard received no money at mediation

National Candidate for Manurewa, Katrina Bungard, said there “was absolutely no exchange of money, or any documents signed that would suggest any kind of compensation”.

One of a number of women allegedly harassed by Ross, Bungard said she was appalled a meeting between herself and the rogue MP has been “rashly speculated” upon.

People with #metoo and political agendas have been either ignoring Bungard while using her to attack National, or have misrepresented what she has said or worse, they have disputed her motives and statements. They have added to the pressure on her in order to promote their own agendas.

In Katrina Bungard’s own words:

“I would like to set the record straight regarding the so-called ‘agreement’ made between myself and Jami-Lee Ross”.

“The party was simply doing their best to facilitate a meeting to bring an end to a situation which I had brought to their attention that was troubling me.”

Bungard said when it became clear issues between her and Ross were not able to be resolved, National Party president Peter Goodfellow orchestrated a mediation meeting where the pair discussed their grievances.

Bungard said a document was signed by the two in which they agreed “we would do our best to move on from what had occurred in the past from our fallout in 2016”.

“Unfortunately, despite president Goodfellow’s best efforts, I don’t believe the meeting fully brought an end to some of Jami-Lee’s behaviour that he still managed to get away with behind the scenes,” she said.

“Although it certainly did lessen many of the more public blows.”

Bungard said she was grateful to the party for the way it handled her complaints.

“[I] believe that they acted in the best way that they could have with the information that they had at the time.”

Unfortunately she is being disbelieved and she is being used by people intent on promoting their own political agendas.

I hope that now Ross is in care many people step back a bit and think through what they are doing. In particular they should consider the stresses and mental health of those they are ignoring, using and attacking. There are many people under pressure here.

Media add to pressure on victim of harassment

It is reported that one of the women alleging harassment by ex MP Jami-Lee Ross may be involved in a confidentiality agreement with the National Party. I don’t think we should rush to conclusions here.

But appears this is exactly what the media has done, without considering the impact on the victim of them flying into the issue without properly considering the situation and the rights and wishes of the victim.

If the party has suppressed the issue against the wishes of a victim then that deserves exposure and condemnation. But if the agreement was willingly made with the victim then what’s the problem with the agreement?

The victim Katrina Bungard has now revealed her identity. She says that she feels that the National Party did all they could to help at the time, and she has released a statement this morning saying that the media attention is making things worse.

Newsroom:  National officials must answer for Ross ‘cover-up’

Questions to be answered

Goodfellow is hardly being forthcoming about his role, saying only that “any issues that we were aware of that were raised, were dealt with at the time” – a statement that hardly seems adequate.

It is unclear exactly how much he knew about Ross’ behaviour, and whether there were any further complaints to him or officials on top of the one which led to the confidentiality agreement – facts which could offer mitigation.

But if Goodfellow wants the benefit of the doubt, he owes it to the party and the public to provide as thorough an explanation as possible without compromising the privacy of the woman involved.

Of course, Ross is the only one responsible for his actions, and the women’s testimony of being “nearly destroyed”, “intimidated, threatened and abused”, and “used” by the Botany MP speaks volumes.

But if this saga has taught us one thing, it is that operating in the shadows does little good for anyone.

Victims often do not like the glare of publicity driven by media rushing in without properly considering the victim’s rights and wishes.

The victim has reacted to media attention this morning. From RNZ:

 

 

National Party candidate claims harassment by Jami-Lee Ross

One woman has gone public about what she claims was harassment by Jami-Lee Ross. This is in relation to the Howick Community Board where Ross campaigned for his wife to be appointed board chair. others have complained about Ross’ behaviour over this too, including the person who became chair.

It wasn’t sexual but was serious enough for the women to complain to the National Party (not the parliamentary part) and to seek medical help. At the least Ross has proven again to be a pushy arrogant arse.

NZ Herald: National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

A National Party candidate has spoken about a campaign of harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross which became so severe she sought medical help and intervention by the party hierarchy.

Manurewa candidate Katrina Bungard told the Herald Ross had harassed her in 2016 and 2017.

She said Ross began the campaign to get wife Lucy Schwaner appointed as chair of the Howick Community Board in east Auckland.

Bungard – a teacher – said her experience of harassment by Ross had led her to complain to National Party hierarchy.

“They did what they could, which is talk to him. There wasn’t enough evidence of anything extreme.”

However, Bungard said her personal experience led her to a definite perspective.

“I thought it was extreme.”

Ross had wanted Bungard – and others on the board – to support Schwaner and he had enlisted so-called political strategist Simon Lusk to assist.

Lusk involved again. Odd paying for a political hit man to try to get his wife voted as community board chair.

“(Lusk) rang me and told me I could have a great career in politics, that he would get me this job and that job.

“Then he said he can only do these things if you’re in a good place with Jami-Lee. If you fall out, I can’t do anything.”

“You know it’s not a good day when you’re getting calls from Simon Lusk.”

Bungard said the harassment had been ongoing for a few years.

“It’s been a pretty hard time for me. I had to get medical help. I was off work, working on my Master’s thesis. I had to get an extension on the thesis and medical note saying I had been under a lot of intense pressure.

“I was concerned for my own family. I had phone calls where he was ‘going to war’ with me and my family.”

Bungard said the campaign shifted after she voted for David Collings, as did the majority of others on the board.

Collings had complained to National Party general manager Greg Hamilton about Ross’ behaviour over the vote for the chair’s role.

Collings said: “He was being a dickhead and a bit of a prat and I wanted him to stop. Greg said he would have a word to him. But it carried on.”

Nothing on it’s own seems particularly serious, but it seems to be a pattern of obnoxious behaviour and playing power games.

It included being served a trespass order when she tried to attend a National Party morning tea for senior citizens.

She had arrived at the meeting in the electorate – for which she was electorate secretary at the time – to be presented with the trespass by the electorate chair.

“I didn’t even get in the door.” She said she asked for the grounds and was told it was “because I had fallen out with Jami-Lee and he had been ordered to trespass me and I wasn’t welcome at any event Jami-Lee was hosting”.

Bizarre.

Bungard said she believed the party had done what it could but it was difficult when the harassment included constant low-level incidents over which there was no physical evidence.

“Greg and Peter Goodfellow did what they could at the time given the evidence they had to go on. But it was one person’s word against another. I’ve been a long-time supporter of the National Party and there was nothing they could do.

“I don’t hold National responsible for his behaviour at all.”

Ross must be held responsible for his behaviour, but it sounds like he made things awkward for the party, especially as he was an MP.