Senior police officer said Wally Haumaha's behaviour was 'not okay' and apology necessary to heal rift with female staff, Inquiry told. But QC finds there was no formal complaint and his leadership style can be 'forceful' in order to create change.

New details about alleged bullying by Wally Haumaha have been revealed in the Government Inquiry which cleared the appointment process which led to his promotion to deputy commissioner.

The inquiry led by Mary Scholtens QC was announced after the Herald revealed in June comments made by, or attributed to, Haumaha during the Operation Austin investigation in 2004.

These comments raised concerns from survivor advocate Louise Nicholas which were understandable, wrote Scholtens, but there was no evidence unearthed in Operation Austin to say Haumaha had done anything wrong.

And while Police Commissioner Mike Bush knew Nicholas had an issue with Haumaha in the past, he did not raise this with the appointment panel as he thought the problem had been resolved.

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This was reasonable, said Scholtens, although State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes and his deputy Debbie Power - who were on the appointment panel with Bush - thought it would have been "prudent" for him to raise it anyway.

Similarly, concerns raised by three women who left Police National Headquarters because of alleged bullying by Haumaha were not relevant to the appointment, said Scholtens.

There was no formal complaint to police, and even if there had been, Scholtens found the likely consequence would be the concerns would have formed part of Bush's assessment of Haumaha's leadership style.

"It may or may not have been something he then chose to refer explicitly to the appointment panel," said Scholtens. "That would have been a matter for his discretion."

Louise Nicholas' concerns were understandable but Commissioner Mike Bush thought the problem was resolved. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Louise Nicholas' concerns were understandable but Commissioner Mike Bush thought the problem was resolved. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In separate statements, Bush and Haumaha welcomed the release of the report.

"It has not been easy for anyone, as I know from my own weeks and months waiting for the outcome," said Haumaha.

"I am especially grateful to my whanau and the many iwi leaders who have supported me and my family... I have also gained personal insights from this process."

However, neither could comment on some aspects of the Inquiry because of a separate investigation into the bullying allegations by the Independent Police Conduct Authority is still under way.

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Three women walked out of Police National Headquarters in June 2016 and refused to return because of Haumaha's alleged behaviour.

The women, who were policy analysts - two from the Ministry of Justice, one from Corrections - were working on a joint project based in the Māori, Pacific, Ethnic Services division run by Haumaha, a superintendent at the time.

New details were revealed in Scholtens' Inquiry which characterised the allegations as Haumaha's adoption of a "direct, police style-approach" to a multi-agency project, "where a more orthodox public sector approach may have been appropriate".

There were five incidents including the "final straw" in a project meeting.

"To summarise, Ms A, Ms B and Ms C felt bullied and belittled by DC Haumaha who they say was angry, advising initiatives they did not think they had signed up to, and sought their commitment to the project/him personally by going around the room," wrote Scholtens.

"Ms B was primarily upset because she raised an issue with DC Haumaha and felt she had been knocked back in an overbearing and belittling way."

The women wanted an apology but Haumaha refused.

"He was passionate about what might be achieved if they could just work together," wrote Scholtens. "He says it was just a straight request to everybody: are you in the game or not?"

At a team meeting the following week, the Justice manager told his staff Haumaha was unlikely to change his behaviour and they needed to work out the most effective way to deal with him.

"In particular, he noted that the way that the way they behaved with him would be critical, and that they needed to be conscious of things like body language and language used (both factors that had been raised with him by DC Haumaha)," wrote Scholtens.

"He spoke directly to Ms B about this, and she was upset by his comments and left the room."

In a later meeting, Haumaha said the Justice manager could apologise on his behalf if he thought it necessary.

He offered to meet with the women individually, but first, they would need to return to PNHQ.

Ms A later spoke with Audrey Sonerson, the acting chief executive of the Justice Ministry, and met with Colin Lynch, the deputy chief executive.

He believed it was an employment matter for the police, not for Justice.

No one in Justice raised the matter with anyone in the police, other than Haumaha. The three women were not asked if they wanted to make a formal complaint.

About two months later, Nicholas received some social media messages about the alleged bullying.

Louise Nicholas' concerns were understandable but Commissioner Mike Bush thought the problem was resolved. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Louise Nicholas' concerns were understandable but Commissioner Mike Bush thought the problem was resolved. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She told Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement but without revealing names.

He called Sonerson and Christine Stevenson, the deputy chief executive at Corrections, but was left with the clear impression neither department wanted to take it further.

"[Stevenson] knows that at some stage she was made aware of behavioural concerns in relations to DC Haumaha, in particular that he had yelled at and belittled female staff, including Ms C, in front of others," wrote Scholtens.

"She was also told that Ms C had shouted at DC Haumaha."

Sonerson could not recall the specifics of the conversation with Clement, but remembers telling him that "her staff were pretty unhappy about it, and that there were clearly organisational cultural differences".

Without a formal complaint, Clement could do nothing.

But he had a casual conversation with Haumaha who said there was "friction and disharmony" in the group.

"From his perspective various members of the working group were focusing on the interests of their own agency rather than taking the broader justice sector view that was called for," wrote Scholtens.

"This was very frustrating to him given the 'size of the prize'. That is, the chance for meaningful cross-sector engagement that could lead to significant improvements for Maori."

Scholtens asked Audrey Sonerson whether an apology from Haumaha was warranted because of the behaviour, or necessary because it would mend the rift with the three women.

The appointment process for Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha was cleared but he is still under IPCA investigation. Photo / Stephen Parker
The appointment process for Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha was cleared but he is still under IPCA investigation. Photo / Stephen Parker

"She thought both - it was not okay to talk to the women the way she understood they had been spoken to and he should apologise, and it would be the right thing to do recognise the impact he had, even if he had not intended it."

Later that year, in October 2016, Sonerson joined the police as Deputy Commissioner in charge of resource management.

Sonerson told Scholtens she raised Haumaha's behaviour in a one-on-one meeting with Commissioner Bush.

She noted: "From what she knew, DC Haumaha's behaviour was not okay, especially towards young female staff from another agency.

"Part of her skill set was her knowledge of how agencies worked together and how they build relationships across boundaries," Scholtens wrote.

"In this context, she pointed out it was the kind of thing which damages Police's reputation."

Bush could not recall a discussion along these line, said Scholtens.

In any event, Scholtens said it was not a complaint or raised in any formal sense.

Therefore it was not considered relevant to Haumaha's appointment to Deputy Commissioner, as Bush was already aware of Haumaha's leadership and management style.

This was because of a document which strongly recommended Haumaha's promotion to Assistant Commissioner in 2017 and outlined in "frank" detail both his strengths and weaknesses.

"He was considered to be passionate and extremely effective in addressing the disproportionate representation of Maori within the Justice system," wrote Scholtens.

"It was noted his approach could be forceful, and this was questioned, but it was said that sometimes a more forceful approach is required, otherwise no one will listen and nothing will change.

"He could come across as demanding and would benefit from working on his listening skills. It was said that he worked well with most people, although he sometimes had difficulty getting others to follow him. He could hold strong views that he sometimes struggled to moderate."