Judith Collins has resigned as a Minister from Cabinet, with the emergence of an email that suggests that she was undermining the then-head of the Serious Fraud Office while she was Police Minister.
The email refers to former SFO chief executive Adam Feeley to the State Services Commission for celebrating the laying of charges against failed company Bridgecorp with a bottle of champagne recovered from Bridgecorp's former headquarters in 2010.
The commission found that this was ill-advised and poor judgement.
In the email, two Herald reporters are named. Here are their responses:
Comment from Jared Savage
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a front page story for the Weekend Herald which detailed how Adam Feeley, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, celebrated the criminal charges laid against Rod Petricevic by hosting a drinks function at which champagne belonging to Bridgecorp was served to SFO staff.
Judith Collins was the Minister in charge of the white collar crime agency and her staff did not return my calls before deadline, but promptly referred the matter to the State Services Commission after publication.
Blogger Cameron Slater wrote a post saying it was a "non story" but later changed his mind. To the best of my memory, I hadn't ever spoken to "Whale Oil" before but contacted him as the story rolled into the next week.
I knew he was well connected to Collins and was trying to find out what he knew.
At the same time, I received a few emails about what was happening inside the SFO office.
Most of it was flotsam and jetsam, interesting tidbits of unverified information or gossip which I decided against pursuing as angles.
I cut and pasted the content of some of those emails, to remove any possible identifying features, and forwarded them on to Slater. So information was shared, there was a bit of "horse trading", we talked about developments as the story rolled along.
This sometimes happens with journalistic sources and it's naive to think otherwise. In total, I wrote six stories about the Feeley/champagne issue and Slater was not the source for any of them. I didn't know that our conversations about Feeley were being shared with others, like PR man Carrick Graham - and that was naive of me to think otherwise.
Since then, I've kept in touch with Slater on-and-off over the years always armed with the knowledge that he comes with a right-wing agenda. There have also been some robust discussions about Herald stories which upset him, such as Luigi Wewege's role in the Len Brown affair and Maurice Williamson's links to Donghua Liu.
Journalists talk to all sorts of people about all sorts of stories, much of which is nothing more than rumour or innuendo. Our job is to sort the wheat from the chaff and publish what is accurate, fair and true.
Comment from Fran O'Sullivan
My column "More than a storm in a champagne flute" was based on information already in the public domain, emails that Herald investigative journalist Jared Savage provided for me at my request, confirmations from Judith Collins' office, talks with former SFO investigators and members of the criminal bar.
It was - and remains - my strong view that the issues exposed in Savage's story exposed poor judgment by former SFO boss Adam Feeley and compromised his office.
That Feeley celebrated criminal charges laid against Rod Petricevic with champagne that belonged to former Bridgecorp directors was unwise to say the least.
The column was one of a series I wrote that looked at how the SFO handled investigations involving failed finance companies.
The inference in Cameron Slater's email that blogger and lawyer Cathy Odgers had any influence over that column is risible.
From the Editor
Two big stories the NZ Herald broke regarding Adam Feeley in 2011 were independent of Whale Oil, and sourced from other contacts. It was good journalism, and in the public interest.
Reporters will have conversations with contacts from all sides of the political spectrum every day - it's our job to be fully aware of the source and their motivation, verify the information, and present it in a fair, accurate and balanced manner.
Whale Oil was one of a number of people Jared Savage spoke to as the issue rolled on, to find out what he knew. Some information would have been shared, but none of it, in our view, pivotal or relevant to our inquiries.
- From Herald editor-in chief Tim Murphy, NZ Herald editor Shayne Currie