Police Commissioner Mike Bush is standing by not raising Louise Nicholas' concerns with the panel that recommended Wally Haumaha for Deputy Commissioner because they were not relevant.
And he says he would still recommend Haumaha for the role today, despite Haumaha's connections with NZ First, Nicholas' concerns that it would undermine progress in police culture, and allegations of bullying that are still under investigation.
His comments follow the release of an inquiry, by Mary Scholtens QC, that cleared the appointment process of any wrongdoing.
"There was no available and relevant information omitted from the process ... Unsubstantiated concerns and innuendo should not impede an appointment," her report said.
It also noted that the State Services Commission raised Haumaha's possible candidacy for NZ First with Police Minister Stuart Nash, but Nash did not inform the appointment panel because he did not consider it relevant.
Nash and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would not endorse Haumaha today, citing the ongoing investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority into bullying allegations against Haumaha from incidents in 2016.
The Scholtens report found that the allegations were not relevant to the appointment process because no formal police complaint was laid, and it was reasonable for Bush to believe that Nicholas' concerns - which he thought were resolved - were not relevant to Haumaha's appointment.
Her concerns centred on comments that Haumaha allegedly made to Operation Austin in 2004, which investigated rape allegations and led to a Commission of Inquiry to improve police culture and behaviour towards women.
The report said that Haumaha denied telling Operation Austin that police should "stick together" when Nicholas first accused a trio of police officers of raping her, and doubted he would have described her allegations as "nonsense".
Bush knew of Nicholas' concerns about Haumaha in 2015 when they were raised during the appointment process of Haumaha to Assistant Commissioner.
But he believed they were dealt with at the time and did not raise them with the Deputy Commissioner appointment panel, even though Nash had raised "rumours" about Haumaha with Bush.
"During the appointment process, the Minister specifically raised [this] with the Commissioner of Police ... The Commissioner assured the Minister that he was not aware of any issues of concern," the report said.
This afternoon Bush stood by his decision not to raise her concerns with the panel, despite panel members saying it would have been prudent to do so.
"The report goes to the heart of that. The process was sound, and no relevant information was omitted from the process," Bush said.
He would not say when Haumaha might return to Deputy Commissioner duties.
"We need to have an understanding on where the IPCA report will go and we have no indications at the moment. It's inappropriate to talk about that report, but all going well, at some stage Deputy Commissioner Haumaha will be back at work."
The Scholtens report said even if Bush knew that Nicholas still had concerns, he did not think they were relevant to the merits of the appointment.
But State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes and Deputy Commissioner Debbie Power - who were on the appointment panel with Bush - disagreed.
"Both Mr Hughes and Ms Power thought it would have been prudent for the Commissioner to have advised the appointment panel, even if he understood Ms Nicholas' concerns had been resolved," wrote Scholtens.
It may have led to changing their recommendation, but Scholtens said an investigation would have shown that "there is no evidence to give any substance to Ms Nicholas' concerns".
Bush only became aware that Nicholas still had concerns after the appointment was announced, and then met with Nicholas, Haumaha, and Deputy Commissioner Mike Clements.
In the meeting, Nicholas accused Haumaha of disrespecting and bullying women and was not satisfied with Haumaha's response, but later told Scholtens that she didn't want him to lose his job and was willing to work with him.
Bush said he did not think the publicity around her concerns had undermined the progress police had made into its culture.
National Party police spokesman Chris Bishop said Bush should have told the panel and the panel could have decided what was relevant.
He said the inquiry was only ever about the process, and the real question was Haumaha's suitability for the role.
"Is the Prime Minister comfortable having Deputy Commissioner Haumaha, who has allegedly said a number of [questionable] things around Operation Austin, is also under investigation by the IPCA for bullying allegations, and has political ties to NZ First?"
Bishop also said Nash should also have raised Haumaha's connection to NZ First with Cabinet.
Nash said the Deputy Police Commissioner should be politically independent, but would not say whether he informed Cabinet, referring only to the report's conclusion that the panel had all relevant information.
Bush would also not say when he first became aware of Haumaha's connections with NZ First, noting the report's conclusion.
Haumaha released a statement this afternoon, saying he was happy that the report had been released.
"It has not been easy for anyone, as I know from my own weeks and months waiting for the outcome.
"I have worked for 30 years to improve Police's service to our community, especially in relation to the special needs of our Maori, Pacifika and ethnic citizens. I look forward to the opportunity of continuing this work."
The report made a number of recommendations that the State Services Commission will consider, including seeking information about potential candidates from anonymous, confidential sources where appropriate.