The man at the centre of an employment probe after he cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate criminal charges against Rod Petricevic has apologised for causing 'unnecessary embarrassment'.
The State Services Commissioner today announced no further action would be taken against Serious Fraud Office chief executive Adam Feeley regarding two staff social gatherings last year.
State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie today said: "The first matter relates to a staff gathering and the consumption of wine in May 2010. Recognising staff achievement is reasonable but by making the association with Bridgecorp explicit in an email to staff and introducing a bottle of wine that had Bridgecorp origins was ill-advised and demonstrated a lapse of judgement on this occasion.
"The second matter involves the handing out of copies of Mr Allan Hubbard's biography at a prize-giving as part of a staff Christmas gathering in December 2010.
Mr Feeley has advised me that a range of books with a business and leadership focus were distributed to staff at the time as recognition of their achievement. Mr Allan Hubbard's biography was amongst the books presented."
The Herald revealed he shared the bottle of champagne belonging to Bridgecorp directors with staff after criminal charges were laid against Petricevic over alleged payments of $5.2 million.
The same day Petricevic was charged, Mr Feeley sent an email to staff saying it had been a "fantastic week" because of the prosecutions against Bridgecorp and other high-profile investigations, including Five Star Finance.
"In light of the Bridgecorp charges being laid, there is a bottle of Gosset champagne [which] needs to leave the confines of my fridge at home and be drunk by those involved with the case," Mr Feeley said in the email, dated May 19 last year.
"The relevance of which is that it previously resided in Rod Petricevic's office - and I'll decline to explain how it end [sic] up with me. Hopefully you can all make it to celebrate."
Rod Petricevic, the former chief executive of Bridgecorp, who is going on trial next week on charges relating to its collapse, said it was "vindictive" of Feeley to crack open a bottle of Bridgecorp's bubbles to celebrate criminal charges against him.
"I'm surprised and I'm really quite appalled to be quite honest. I wouldn't have thought this situation is one for celebration," Petricevic said.
He said the SFO was celebrating the "misfortune" of people being charged and it was an upsetting time for him, his co-accused Rob Roest and their families.
"It is not as if it was a win, it was people being charged."
Asked whether he would like the champagne replaced, Petricevic said that wasn't the issue.
"As an employee of the Eden Park Redevelopment Board, he took the bottle. And then, in a different position, he chose to celebrate with it? I mean it's surprising, quite vindictive and unusual." Petricevic was the director of Bridgecorp when the finance company collapsed in July 2007 owing $460 million to 14,500 investors.
Labour leader Phil Goff said there was a question over the ownership of the wine and Mr Feeley's actions were "extraordinarily unwise" and he should acknowledge that.
"It's not a huge sum of money, it's about $70, but if you're running the Serious Fraud Office and you're consuming something that doesn't belong to you, that's got to be a worry," Goff said.
However, Prime Minister John Key did not believe drinking Bridgecorp champagne was a "major issue".
"It's probably a little bit unfortunate. But as Bill English said , they've been working through a lot and it's probably a boss trying to reward his staff."
Key said he did not know all the details but it sounded as if the wine had been left behind.
"I don't think anyone's claiming he stole it ... If they had stolen it that would have been a different issue."
Feeley said the drinks function was appropriate to acknowledge the effort of his staff who worked on the case.
- NZ HERALD ONLINE