Formal complaint by one of three women who alleged verbal bullying by deputy police commissioner leads to employment investigation.

A formal complaint of alleged bullying has been laid against deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha.

The complaint was laid by one of the three women who walked out of Police National Headquarters in June 2016 and refused to return because of Haumaha's alleged behaviour

The policy analysts - two from the Justice Ministry, one from Corrections - were based at PNHQ in Wellington working in the Maori, Pacific, Ethnic Services division run by Haumaha, a superintendent at the time.

A number of alleged verbal incidents, including a particularly heated exchange in which one of Haumaha's senior staff allegedly intervened, contributed to the three women feeling "devalued and disillusioned".

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The Herald revealed last month that the three women told their managers, did not return to PNHQ, and continued working on the project from the Justice Ministry offices.

One of the women confirmed to the Herald she formally laid the complaint last week, although the police last night refused to comment, or even acknowledge the complaint had been laid.

This was on the grounds that Mary Scholtens, QC, who is heading the Government inquiry into the appointment process of the deputy commissioner job, has said she will consider the bullying allegations.

In response to questions from the Herald, Deputy Commissioner Andy Coster declined to answer, citing a letter from Scholtens requesting information from the police including whether any complaint was laid formally, or informally, but only prior to Haumaha's appointment in June.

However, the minute released by Scholtens which confirmed she was considering the bullying allegations specifically noted "this does not prevent any complaint being made to, or considered by, any other agency".

A formal complaint like the one laid last week would normally trigger an internal employment investigation which would likely interview one of Haumaha's staff members, a senior police officer, who allegedly intervened in one of the verbal incidents.

"This will be investigated and we are currently seeking further information about what has occurred to determine what steps are required," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said at the time.

"The Police Executive, including Deputy Commissioner Haumaha, recognise the need to ensure that there is an appropriate level of independence to any investigation of all the matters raised in the media recently, including this most recent allegation."

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Mary Scholtens QC is heading the Government inquiry into the appointment process. Photo / Supplied
Mary Scholtens QC is heading the Government inquiry into the appointment process. Photo / Supplied

Scholtens' inquiry, which is due to report back at the end of September, will not look into Haumaha's suitability for the role, rather whether all the relevant information was provided to, or gathered by, the State Services Commission panel which recommended Haumaha as one of two potential candidates for the senior job.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters announced the inquiry in June after the Herald revealed controversial comments made by Haumaha about the rape allegations against his friends by Louise Nicholas.

But National MP Chris Bishop wrote to State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes asking for a separate investigation into how the bullying allegations were handled after the three policy analysts left PNHQ.

Three different statements were issued by the Justice Ministry, Corrections and the Police, so Bishop wrote to Hughes asking him to clear up the conflicting stories from the three government agencies.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush was on the SSC panel which recommended the candidates for deputy commissioner. Photo / Andrew Warner.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush was on the SSC panel which recommended the candidates for deputy commissioner. Photo / Andrew Warner.

Hughes said he would postpone any decision to conduct his own investigation until after Scholtens' inquiry was complete.

Many of New Zealand's most senior police officers, including Commissioner Mike Bush and three of his deputies, Haumaha, Mike Clement and Audrey Sonerson, are likely to be questioned by the QC.

Haumaha was promoted to assistant commissioner in June 2017 by Bush, who was also on the SSC panel which recommended him in May as one of two candidates for the vacant deputy job.

Louise Nicholas was furious about the comments made by Wally Haumaha during Operation Austin. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Louise Nicholas was furious about the comments made by Wally Haumaha during Operation Austin. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

The inquiry into Haumaha's appointment was announced the day the Herald revealed comments he made during Operation Austin, an investigation into historic police rape allegations made by Louise Nicholas.

He described his friends Brad Shipton as a "softie" and Bob Schollum as a "legend" with women, while one officer told the 2004 investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha described Nicholas' allegations as "a nonsense".

While Haumaha has apologised, Police Minister Stuart Nash said he was unaware of the "deeply disappointing" comments when he gave Haumaha's name to the Prime Minister for the deputy commissioner role.