One of the most senior police officers in the country was given a plum overseas job less than 12 months after accepting a lesser rank for making crass sexual comments in front of female colleagues.
And the bitter fallout has now cast a shadow over the announcement of the next Police Commissioner, as one of the favourites for the top job is under investigation for trying to block the appointment of the censured officer to the coveted Hong Kong role.
Hamish McCardle had been recently promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner, in charge of performance and strategy, when an Independent Police Conduct Authority upheld a complaint against him for making offensive sexual remarks.
One of the crude comments was McCardle joking in front of female colleagues that police staff, including himself, have to perform oral sex in order to be promoted.
The IPCA found McCardle's behaviour was unprofessional, disrespectful and breached elements of the police Code of Conduct, which amounted to inappropriate behaviour and serious misconduct.
He was quietly shuffled out of the police executive, the senior leadership team of Commissioner Mike Bush, and accepted the lower rank of Superintendent last April.
But by the end of the year, McCardle was offered an international post to Hong Kong, as a police liaison officer working alongside New Zealand diplomats and local law enforcement.
Such jobs are considered highly desirable by police staff and come with perks such as paid-for accommodation and allowances for living expenses.
McCardle had previously spent eight years in Beijing as a senior liaison officer and was credited with fostering a strong relationship between Chinese and New Zealand police forces, especially in disrupting the drug trade.
As a fluent Mandarin speaker who achieved a Master of Laws from a Chinese university, McCardle would be considered the strongest candidate for the Hong Kong job.
While supporters thought McCardle had paid the price for his indiscretion, one senior police officer believed McCardle's appointment to the desirable international post, less than 12 months after his demotion, sent a poor message to staff.
Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement had a heated meeting with Police Commissioner Mike Bush, then tried to block McCardle from getting the role.
He was trumped on the advice of employment lawyers and McCardle took the job early this year.
However, in a late twist, the internal battle has become a stumbling block for Clement's application to become the next Commissioner of Police.
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Mike Bush retires in April but his replacement has not been announced by the Government despite the four leading contenders - John Tims, Sandra Venables, Andrew Coster and Clement - being interviewed by the State Services Commission panel in December.
Clement, 60, was widely considered frontrunner for the role.
He was parachuted into Whakatāne in December to take control of police efforts to recover the deceased left on Whakaari/White Island after the volcanic eruption, at the request of Police Minister Stuart Nash, as well as handling the "buy-back" of newly banned firearms last year after the 15 March Christchurch mosque shootings.
However, this week Clement's position as the favourite to replace Bush as the Police Commissioner was rocked by a television report revealing he was under investigation by the IPCA.
Newshub reported Clement was alleged to have interfered in the appointment process of a superintendent and a complaint was laid with the police watchdog, which in turn delayed the appointment process for the Commissioner vacancy.
However, what was not reported was the officer in question was Hamish McCardle, or the background of his own adverse IPCA investigation and subsequent demotion.
The partial leak that Clement was under investigation by the IPCA, without the wider context, was seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine his candidacy for the top job.
In an election year, the Government is keen to avoid any controversy as the previous promotion of Wally Haumaha to the position of Deputy Commissioner in 2018 was dogged by allegations of bullying, after the Herald revealed three women left a joint justice project because of him.
The saga created months of poor headlines for police and the Government and ended with an IPCA report which found Haumaha's behaviour was at times unprofessional, inappropriate and could be described as bullying, as the word is commonly understood.
The controversy led to the State Services Commission inserting a new clause in the application form for the Commissioner's job authorising the SSC to "approach, in confidence, not only the referees you have named but other people who have personal knowledge of you".
Warren Young, general manager of the IPCA, confirmed the inquiry into Clement's alleged interference in the appointment process was finished but declined to comment further.
Police Minister Stuart Nash declined to express a view on McCardle's appointment, as it was an internal matter for police, but gave an unprompted endorsement of Clement.
"However, given recent publicity this week I do want to acknowledge the long and distinguished career of Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement," Nash said.
"He has earned the respect not only of myself, but of many other ministers from a number of governments over the years."
McCardle and Clement declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Police said, because of privacy reasons, many questions could not be answered as they related to confidential employment matters.
She said some of the assertions made by the Weekend Herald were "factually incorrect", but declined to clarify what was inaccurate because of privacy reasons.
The spokeswoman said "expressions of interest" were advertised to identify employees interested in international postings for police liaison positions, from which a pool of employees was selected. Appointments to individual overseas posts were made after a selection panel process, from the pool of applicants.