Sunday 26 January 2020

New Zealand legislator quits over allegations of secret taping

Todd Barclay is accused of making secret recordings of a staff member (New Zealand Herald/AP)
Todd Barclay is accused of making secret recordings of a staff member (New Zealand Herald/AP)

A New Zealand legislator accused of making secret recordings of a staff member and then lying about what he did says he will quit when his term expires in September.

Todd Barclay announced on Wednesday that he will not run in the upcoming election. He said he did not want the issues that are important to his district and country to be overshadowed by what he described as an employment dispute.

The announcement came a day after prime minister Bill English released a statement he made to police last year in which he said Mr Barclay told him he had left a recording device running in his office and captured criticism from a staffer.

Mr English's actions were prompted by an investigation by the Newsroom website. He continues to face questions about why he did not act sooner or more decisively to sanction Mr Barclay.

Under New Zealand law, it is illegal to secretly record other people's conversations.

Police investigated Mr Barclay, but the conservative legislator refused an interview and officers said they closed the case due to insufficient evidence.

Mr English said he took steps to address the matter by reporting it to district officials and the police. He said he hopes the government can get back to running the country following Mr Barclay's announcement.

"He's made, I think, a very difficult decision for a young politician, but it's the right one," Mr English said.

He said Mr Barclay made a statement about the issue on Tuesday which he had later acknowledged was untrue.

Initially on Tuesday, Mr Barclay said he was aware of the secret taping allegations but "totally refuted them", but after Mr English released his police statement, he backtracked.

He said he accepted Mr English's versions of events and was "sorry if any of the answers I gave this morning were misleading".

In his resignation statement, he said getting elected was "the proudest moment of my life" but that it was in the best interests of the government for him to leave.

Mr English will be hoping the resignation does not sour voters on the National Party, which has won the past three elections under former leader John Key.

Recent polls indicate the party remains the most popular and Mr English the preferred prime minister ahead of September's nationwide elections.


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