COMMENT:

It seems to me a significant wrong has been done at Parliament - and the man at the centre of it has been left feeling dumbfounded, depressed and maligned.

Spending two hours with the man, who we've decided not to name to protect his family, it was clear to me that he wasn't in a good way. Initially he only partially opened the door and said he was under strict instructions not to talk to the media.

I've known the man for many years.

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I told him it was his right not to talk to me, but said I simply wanted to hear his side of the story. He'd been sent packing from Parliament the day before after finding out he was the subject acccused of "three serious sexual assaults".

He'd arrived at Parliament after hearing on the radio on his way in that a "rapist" staff member was on the prowl.

Speaker Trevor Mallard had said the assaults were tantamount to rape and the man said he was shocked when he arrived at Parliament to discover he was in fact allegedly "the rapist".

A three-year-old complaint, laid two years after the alleged assault occurred, was investigated last year and the man was exonerated. He claimed he'd responded to a high five from a colleague with a hug and the inquiry into it couldn't find anything to the contrary. She also said he hugged her from behind and pressed his groin into her.

The investigation into those claims has now been reopened and he's been sent home with Mallard declaring at the time that "I can give an assurance that one of the key dangers is no longer in Parliament".

Mallard's comments came after the publication of last week's Francis report into bullying and harassment in the Beehive, which revealed three serious allegations of sexual harassment. Shortly afterward, Mallard said these alleged incidents were tantamount to rape. Mallard declined to comment yesterday.

If Mallard hadn't seen the outcome of the employment inquiry into this man's alleged behaviour, which he should have been, it would hopefully have prevented him from crying "rape" about these particular alleged incidents.

Truth is Mallard was no doubt looking to set people's minds at rest. Parliament was in an uproar, believing a rapist was on the loose.

Speaker Trevor Mallard and reviewer Debbie Francis released an independent review of bullying and harassment at Parliament last week. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Speaker Trevor Mallard and reviewer Debbie Francis released an independent review of bullying and harassment at Parliament last week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The fact that reviewer Debbie Francis didn't bother to speak to the man who was accused of such serious behaviour is woeful. Her report is full of unsourced quotes, including someone telling her about an MP who always liked to touch the arm of any woman he was talking to "which was unpleasant".

They were unsourced because staff at Parliament were effectively invited to say anything they liked about anyone they didn't like and were assured anonymity. Anything they did say, they were told, would be destroyed so no-one could hold them to anything they'd said.

The maligned man I spoke to, however, had already faced an employment inquiry. Chances are that would have been the end of the matter, given he was exonerated, if the Speaker hadn't appealed for people to come forward. The man says the woman who laid the complaint had a beef with him over matters unrelated to the hug.

How the new employment inquiry into his alleged behaviours will come up with anything new from the first, given there were no witnesses nor CCTV, is anybody's guess. Indeed that's the most likely outcome - we'll all be left guessing.

But at this stage, I believe the man deserves an apology from Mallard. I believe he deserves to be reinstated so that he can clear his name. And I believe he deserves compensation for what's he's been put through.