Rodney's complaint

Here is the text of Rodney’s complaint to the Privileges Committee.

Hon Margaret Wilson

Dear Madam Speaker


I write to raise a complaint of Contempt against Rt Hon Winston Peters.

I am raising the matter before the “next sitting of the House” (SO392(2)) which is Tuesday 22 July 2008.

On Friday 18 July 2008, Mr Peters announced that Mr Owen Glenn donated $100,000 towards the electoral petition he took against Mr Bob Clarkson after the 2005 election.

NZPA reported (Appendix 1),

[Mr Peters] said that since 1991 he had been involved in 14 legal actions which had been partly funded through donations, and Mr Henry had “a firm policy” of not disclosing the source of donations.

“I have never been told the source of these donations but have personally met the shortfall which has amounted to many hundred thousands of dollars,” Mr Peters said in a statement.

“Mr Henry decided, due to the publicity over the past weekend in respect to Mr Owen Glenn, that he should break this policy and inform me that Mr Owen Glenn had donated in 2006 a sum in the order of $100,000 towards the legal costs of the Tauranga electoral petition.”

Mr Peters said that until today he had been unaware of the source of any of the donations for legal expenses “and I have cause to be very grateful to Mr Glenn for his very generous contribution”.

We know that Mr Peters had a legal bill following the 2005 election in excess of $100,000. The debt was against Mr Peters. The electoral petition was in his name. We now know that Mr Owen Glenn paid $100,000 towards these legal costs and Mr Peters made up the short fall. Mr Peters denies he knew Mr Glenn had been a donor.

The New Zealand Herald on 21 July 2008 reports the following statements from Mr Peters’ lawyer Mr Brian Henry and Mr Peters (Appendix 2)

“But he [Mr Owen Glenn] was told he was contributing towards the legal expenses of the Tauranga electoral petition – that’s where the money would be applied, to that bill.”

Mr Henry said no fund or account for Mr Peters’ legal bills existed.

“The position is that the money is used to pay an existing bill, full-stop.

There is no fund. There is no cash sitting in a balance anywhere. There are bills to be paid.”

Mr Henry said that the $200,000 in donations that had been received for Mr Peters’ legal bills included Mr Glenn’s $100,000.

Mr Henry would not discuss why he had not alerted Mr Peters about the donation in February, when Mr Peters denied Mr Glenn had made a donation.

Asked about pecuniary gain, Mr Peters told NZPA he did not believe he had benefited personally from the arrangement whereby his legal bills were paid by anonymous donors and he paid the shortfall.

Mr Henry concurred last night.

“There is nothing I am aware of where someone contributing towards a bill you have incurred needs to be declared.”

Mr Henry is wrong.

Since August 2005 Standing Orders have required that. Appendix B covers Pecuniary Interests and Standing Orders state:

7.Contents of return relating to member’s activities for period ending on effective date of return

1. Every return must contain the following information for the period specified in clause 8:

2.a description of each gift (including hospitality and donations in cash or kind but excluding any donation made to cover expenses in an electoral campaign) received by the member that has an estimated market value in New Zealand of more than $500 and the name of the donor of each of those gifts (if known or reasonably ascertainable by the member), and
3. a description of all debts of more than $500 that were owing by the member that were discharged or paid (in whole or in part) by any other person and the names of each of those persons.

Mr Peters had a strict obligation to disclose the debt AND the names of those who discharged or paid it in part or in full. Mr Henry has made it clear there is no trust fund, just bills to be paid. The bills were to Mr Peters. The petition was in his name and he made up the shortfall. The requirement of Standing Orders is to declare the discharge of the debt and the names of those who discharged it.

Mr Peters has not.

I include the Register for Mr Peters for January 2006, 2007 and 2008 (Appendices 3, 4 and 5).

Standing Order 400(h) gives as an example of a contempt “as a member, knowingly providing false or misleading information in a return of pecuniary interests”

Mr Peters has committed a contempt because he has known that others have been paying his legal bills and he hasn’t disclosed the fact in his Pecuniary Interests Return.

Yours sincerely

Rodney Hide M
Leader, ACT New Zealand

Cc Rt Hon Winston Peters