Woman details texts and calls from MP

Last updated 18:42 04/06/2009

Richard Worth resigns as minister

Murky conclusion to Worth's abandonment

Concerns following Worth's departure

Phil Goff on Richard Worth

Audio: Parliament questions on Worth

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Former Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth has broken his silence over his resignation, saying he has not committed any crime.


Do you know more about the case? Email editorial@stuff.co.nz or call 04-4740098


Dr Worth resigned suddenly on Tuesday night and police are investigating a complaint against him.

In a statement just issued, he said he had done nothing wrong.

"The public should suspend any judgment until allegations against me have been resolved.

"I have not committed any offence. I am presently cooperating fully with the police and will continue to do so.

"There has been a rush to judgement on the basis of rumour and speculation, which has been damaging to my political career and hurtful for my family and friends.

"There is a well-known principle in New Zealand that a person is presumed innocent until they have been proved guilty. At the moment, I have not even been charged with any criminal offence, let alone had the opportunity to defend myself.

"I maintain that I am innocent of any crime, and I will defend myself vigorously against any accusation that I have broken the law."

Prime Minister John Key rang Dr Worth today and advised him to come clean about allegations against him.

ALLEGATIONS

This morning it was revealed that Mr Key investigated claims that the Dr Worth offered a woman a job for romantic favours a month before police began investigating other serious allegations against him.

A statement by the woman was tabled in Parliament this afternoon. (Read the full statement.)

In it the woman, who does not want to be identified, said she received 40 text messages and 60 phone calls from Dr Worth between November 26 and February 23.

Having met during the election campaign, Dr Worth texted the woman on November 26 and asked her to meet him. Initially she did not know who the message was from but called him and agreed to meet at a cafe.

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He offered her a job as an ethics advisor. After that meeting he called her again and offered her a job as a board member. Dr Worth told the woman she would have to leave the Labour Party, of which she was a member, and join National, she said.

While the woman was on a international family trip the text messages became more explicit and she became uncomfortable ''with his tone and his approach''.

The woman said she wanted to show respect to Dr Worth as an older person and Minister of the Crown but ''repeatedly made it clear to him that I didn't want a relationship with him''.

The woman said she took the matter to Labour leader Phil Goff so the messages and calls would stop.

She did not want publicity but said she spoke out to counter calls for evidence. She would provide copies of text messages and phone records and meet with Prime Minister John Key if he requested it.

POLICE COMPLAINT

Mr Key said the police complaint - which relates to a separate allegation - was serious and he would have sacked Dr Worth if he had refused to fall on his sword over behaviour "not befitting a minister".

Police and Mr Key refused to confirm the nature of the complaint, but Mr Key acknowledged it was similar to allegations previously brought to his attention that involved a woman harassed by Dr Worth.

"There are different circumstances here and circumstances that certainly would appear on first blush to warrant a police investigation but also information that would confirm to me that he doesn't hold my confidence and shouldn't be a minister."

Police Minister Judith Collins told reporters the police commissioner rang her on Tuesday and told her an allegation of ''a sexual nature'' had been made against a colleague.

Mr Key said it would be ''irresponsible'' of him to comment on the nature of the allegation.

It was a serious matter and he did not want to jeopardise the police investigation ''or ultimately any court case if there was one''.

''I think New Zealanders will understand that, it's important that I treat this seriously and in a delicate way.''

Dr Worth had not yet been interviewed by police but had ''rejected (the) allegations strongly'' to members of Mr Key's staff.

Mr Key rang Dr Worth this morning and had a brief chat during which he advised him to speak publicly about the situation.

There was no way for Dr Worth to return as a minister, Mr Key said.

''Irrelevant of whether police charges are laid or not, and they well may not be, its clear in my investigations... Dr Worth's behaviour does not befit that of a minister and I won't have him in my Cabinet.

''I feel let down because when you sign up to be a minister of the crown, or in fact a member of Parliament...it's a serious obligation and you take that on behalf of the New Zealand public.''

Asked whether he wanted Dr Worth to leave Parliament altogether Mr Key said: ''if there's a court case, then you know the answer to that question''.

LABOUR'S INVOLVEMENT

Labour leader Phil Goff has confirmed he privately raised concerns with Mr Key last month about allegations regarding Dr Worth's "inappropriate political ... and sexual behaviour" toward a woman. It was a separate matter to the one before police.

"The allegations were essentially that Dr Worth had offered a number of different positions that were within his gift as minister to this woman, with the overtones that this was in pursuit of romantic ambitions," Mr Goff said.

The suggestions had been linked to the woman receiving a board directorship and a job as an adviser. He had told Mr Key there was evidence to suggest "inappropriate" suggestions were made in emails and telephone calls.

"Why I went to the prime minister is that I'd received a complaint from a woman that I knew, who is a member of the Labour party so I'll put that right out front, but I didn't believe her allegations were politically motivated," Goff told Breakfast.

"I checked out her story very carefully before I went to the prime minister, she had emails, she had telephone-logs, and the essence of her story was that she had been offered various positions by Dr Worth but ... the overtone was in return for a relationship.

"The emails were personal, they were about 'do you want to come swimming with me?' ... Do you want to take a holiday with me overseas, I want you to buy this see-through clothing. This woman is half Dr Worth's age, she is a happily married woman with children, she was offended by it."

Mr Goff said he had not raised the claims publicly because "I didn't really want to go through grubby details of the allegations that were made".

Mr Key confirmed he investigated claims against Dr Worth about six weeks ago, but said he found no substance to them and had taken Dr Worth's word they were unfounded.

"I investigated them and there didn't appear to be any truth to them and I accepted Dr Worth's version of events."

Dr Worth did not return calls yesterday.

POLICE INQUIRY

Police said they began investigating the second set of allegations two weeks ago after a complaint was made in Auckland. The case was transferred to Wellington after a preliminary inquiry and was being led by Wellington CIB head Detective Inspector Paul Basham.

A Korean businesswoman laid the complaint with police, The New Zealand Herald reported today.

A friend and business associate of the complainant told the newspaper the woman was distressed.

After laying the complaint, they told a National MP's office, so that the Prime Minister John Key could be updated.

Dr Worth is a former chairman of the Korean-New Zealand Business Council, and has long links with the Korean and Indian communities.

Mr Key said his office was told about the police complaint on Tuesday last week.

He decided at that point he no longer had confidence in Dr Worth, but waited a week before speaking personally to him as there was a "process to go through".

But Mr Goff questioned why it took Mr Key more than a week to decide Dr Worth's position was untenable. "He left him there right up till last night [Tuesday]."

Mr Key said time was needed to "get to the bottom of the matter".

"When the information was brought to my attention, for a variety of reasons I won't go into, at that point I lost confidence in him. But that didn't resolve the other issues that needed to be resolved as best I could."

Mr Key made it clear, meanwhile, there were serious questions over Dr Worth's ability to remain in Parliament and he had been given two weeks to consider his future.

But unless he quits of his own accord, National's hands may be tied though it can expel Dr Worth from the caucus, it cannot expel him from Parliament.

- By MARTIN KAY and TRACY WATKINS, Dominion Post,  with NZPA

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