A new leaked conversation between National Party leader Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett and Rep. Jami-Lee Ross, shows the trio apparently discussing how to present Ross's medical leave at the height of speculation that the party had a spill in its midst.
The recording, which would have been made before Bridges announced that Ross was leaving, revealed a discussion about how to handle the details of the ad and negotiate Ross's silent exit.
The conversation seems to be expressed in the context in which Ross had been "disloyal and disturbing," as well as faced a series of informal complaints from women at the time about various forms of harassment.
Deputy Leader Bennett is heard offering Ross the choice of having his temporary absence described as "medical leave" or "family reasons."
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Ross agrees that "medical leave" is accurate, and Bridges gives Ross a guarantee that he did not "speak ill of Ross" in any way if Ross agreed to the announcement.
The new recording, released on Newshub & # 39; s AM Show "Probably from Ross's camp-it does not reveal much more information about what was being discussed behind the scenes." However, its release is likely to be another destabilizing shot at Bridges' lead, and suggests there is more to come.
Talking to ThingBridges fired allegations that Ross's announcement was a "cover-up," saying he had to protect the privacy of women as well as Ross in the context in which he was dealing with serious mental health problems.
"As a leader, I was dealing with a serious and complex issue and actually there were two or three things: misconduct, disloyal behavior and disturbing, but also a number of serious health problems," he said.
A recorded conversation between former national parliamentarian Jami-Lee Ross, party leader Simon Bridges and Congresswoman Paula Bennett shows that the leadership has tried to keep its internal problems out of the public eye.
He rejected claims that the party was protecting Ross at the expense of women, saying they were "not political" and that, given the nature of conflicting privacy and health issues, "he would never be in a position where it was appropriate" . to speak "in open details about it." That was not the wish of the women, nor the interests of Jami-Lee. "
On Monday, The AM show touched segments of what was said 18 minutes of a recorded conversation between Bridges, Bennett and Ross. The program appeared to have an edited version of the recording that did not contain the beginning of the tape.
Bridges also talks about Ross being "disappointed" in the recording, seemingly alluding to some of the complaints about Ross' conduct.
In segments of the recording touched on the show, Bennett says: "We're trying to give you the lightest possible output."
Ross: "Then it would be for medical reasons."
Bennett: "If that's what you want, I think a doctor or family is your best choice."
LAWRENCE SMITH / Stuff
Jami Lee Ross will resign due to health problems, says national leader Simon Bridges
Ross: "The truth is medical."
Bridges: "Yes, it's not right … there's no shame in that."
Bennett: "And that means everyone will give up on you too, the media and all that sort of thing, which I think is important."
At one point in the recording Bridges says, "There are drawbacks to me, leaving you with what you did, OK, I just want you to understand that.But if you take the statement for you, and your behavior is good afterwards, I never I will refer to the subjects we are talking about … again. "
Bridges also says, "The truth is that Jami-Lee can get through this, and you can go through that, and you can get out on the other side if your attitude after time is good and positive, and you can be promoted again. "
Bridges confirmed that, at the time of the call, four or five women had raised "issues", they were not formal complaints at this stage, although more serious allegations had been made since then. The "disloyal and disruptive" behavior apparently was at the top of it.
Although Ross claims that he did not lease Bridges' travel expenses, the consulting firm PwC was in the midst of an investigation that would later point the finger at Ross – albeit with no conclusive evidence.
In the recording, Ross says, "The things around harassing the guys, which I reject, is the worst, and I do not even know what that is."
Bennett: "Well, you know what that disloyalty is, and that was put very clearly for you, and if it were put on a bench, that would be enough."
Bridges confirmed that a week before the recorded conversation, he had received a phone call with Ross to pose the issues of "disloyalty and disruptiveness" to him.
Bridges and Bennett talked to Ross's specialist before discussing the outcome of the phone call.
It is understood that 20 minutes later, on October 2, and flanked by his deputy, Bridges announced that Ross was on leave for a few months to deal with personal health issues.
Bridges described the reasons for Ross's departure as "potentially embarrassing," but it is now unclear whether he was referring to Ross's health problems or the series of allegations of several women.