Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley has disputed reports he used Allan Hubbard's biography as a "booby prize" at a staff function but says he regrets it was misinterpreted as a dig at the South Canterbury financier.
Mr Feeley was reprimanded by the State Services Commission yesterday after the Herald revealed he had used copies of the Hubbard biography as booby prizes last December and a bottle of wine from the Bridgecorp offices last year to celebrate company boss Rod Petricevic being charged.
However, Mr Feeley escaped serious censure for the actions, which SSC chief Iain Rennie said were "ill-advised" and showed a lack of judgment.
Mr Rennie said he would make it clear to Mr Feeley what the expectations were for behaviour as CEO and caution him to act with care.
However, he said Mr Feeley was effective in his job and the performance of the SFO had strengthened under his leadership.
He said Mr Feeley had apologised to SFO minister Judith Collins for causing her "unnecessary embarrassment'.
Mr Feeley acknowledged the "appropriateness" of the findings, but disputed the Hubbard books were used for booby prizes at a Christmas awards function last year - when Mr Hubbard was under investigation by the SFO.
He said it was a genuine prizegiving to reward good performance.
"However, I acknowledge that the gift of Mr Hubbard's biography could have been misinterpreted and I regret that this may have occurred."
Mr Feeley's actions had upset supporters of Mr Hubbard, who died after a car crash in September. They had called for Mr Feeley to be sacked, saying the use of the books as booby prizes showed he had a deep underlying contempt towards Mr Hubbard.
Mr Rennie said Mr Feeley had explained that a range of books on business and leadership were used to reward staff, including Mr Hubbard's on that occasion.
"I find that Mr Feeley took an unnecessary risk in choosing the book where the selection could be interpreted as inappropriate."
Mr Feeley did not mention the Bridgecorp wine in his statement. Petricevic - who goes on trial in the High Court next week - has previously described the SFO chief's actions as "vindictive".
Mr Rennie said recognising staff achievement was reasonable but using a bottle from Bridgecorp and making the association clear in an email to staff was "ill advised and demonstrated a lapse of judgment on this occasion".
He said there was nothing to show Mr Feeley had acted dishonestly in obtaining the bottle.
Ms Collins - who referred the matter to the SSC - said she would make her views clear when she next met Mr Feeley. She said the SSC was Mr Feeley's employer and she could not step in, but he had accepted it was an error in judgment.
"I understand Mr Feeley is now well aware of why his actions were inappropriate and I don't expect to see a repeat of the behaviour."
However, she said he had increased the prosecution of white-collar criminals "and I think that is important". She said it was important for law enforcement bodies to remain dispassionate.