Peters won't back down over Horan

VERNON SMALL, TONY WALL, MICHELLE COOKE AND ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 17:34 05/12/2012

NZ First leader Winston Peters has expelled former television weatherman Brendan Horan from the party.

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Winston Peters is not backing down from expelling Brendan Horan saying the controversial MP "doesn't know what the word wrong means".

Peters rejected the dumped former weatherman's claim he has been treated unfairly and said delaying the sacking was in no-one's interests.

But the NZ First leader admitted he was "bitterly disappointed" after he yesterday expelled Horan from the party over allegations made by Horan's half-brother that he misappropriated his late mother's money.

Horan showed up to Parliament today, and maintains he has acted appropriately. It was revealed today he used his parliamentary phone to call the TAB betting line 12 times in about four hours.

Records viewed by Fairfax showed Horan rang the same number on other occasions.

"If Brendan thinks he's done he's done no wrong, he doesn't know what the word wrong means," Peters said.

But he refused to say if he would apologise or re-admit the MP to the party if he is exonerated.

Peters would not reveal the evidence that led to Horan's expulsion, but says Horan was privy to it.

"I intend to let that unfold as time goes by ... I acted because I believe I had to ... because I'm certain of my facts and I'm certain of what I had to do," he told Radio Live.

"Delay was no good to anyone and I was bound to make that public.

"It's very very regrettable and I'm bitterly disappointed that we had to do what we did but I was left with no option."

NZ First believes Horan broke Parliament rules because parliamentary resources are only supposed to be used on parliamentary business.

Sources told Fairfax that NZ First tried to seize the MP's laptop after he phoned an assistant and asked her to wipe it clean of his records.

Horan told Fairfax he was entitled to call who he wanted but did not deny the calls to the TAB.

He said he did not have his phone records so had no way of confirming it.

"Look up the rules; people can use their phones for anything. There is fringe benefit and people can use their phones for a certain amount of private business. Whatever I use my phone for is my private business."

After discussions with Parliament's Speaker Lockwood Smith this morning, Horan said he had been given permission for two days' leave.

INTENTION TO REMAIN IN PARLIAMENT

Horan earlier confirmed he wanted to remain in Parliament as an independent MP.

He made the comments on his way to meeting with Smith.

The MP had attended a select committee meeting after turning up to Parliament. He was also understood to be moving offices.

PETERS DUMPS MP

Peters yesterday told Parliament he no longer had confidence in Horan as an MP after receiving new information linked to allegations that Horan had taken money from his dying mother.

He announced Horan's expulsion at 3pm, telling Parliament he had received "substantive information ... some as recently as 2.15 this afternoon".

"The information we have received leaves me in a position where I have no confidence in Mr Horan's ability to continue as a member of Parliament and he will be expelled from the NZ First caucus forthwith."

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Horan said he had no warning from Peters, who has the power to expel him from his caucus and his party, but not from Parliament.

"If the leader of the party doesn't want you then I'm not one to go begging back, but my core values haven't changed and my beliefs haven't changed," he said.

He was surprised by Peters' announcement and said there were "a number of disappointments".

Horan's lawyer, Paul Mabey, told Radio Live: "His question was, 'Why should I quit, what have I done wrong? Just because Mr Peters has expelled me, and I have been convicted in the court of Mr Peters?'.

"Mr Horan is the subject of unproven allegations which he completely denies. None of the allegations have ever been put to him directly nor has he been shown any evidence to support them."

Mabey said he did not know what information Peters had.

"Whether or not that information is true and whether it would stand up in a courtroom is another matter, but obviously it stood up in Mr Peters' courtroom."

He said Horan was feeling "understandably combative" but he was aware he came in as a NZ First list MP and that may influence his ultimate decision.

Leaving Parliament now, simply because Peters said so, could be seen as an admission of wrongdoing or guilt and  Horan insisted he had done nothing wrong.

"He's saying 'I'm not leaving Parliament, I don't care what Winston Peters says. He can judge me. I'd rather be judged by people that have all the information'."

Horan had been absent from Parliament since early last week after Peters told him to sort out claims raised by his half-brother, Mana Ormsby.

Forensic accountants have been investigating the estate of Olwen Horan, who died in August, amid allegations large sums were misappropriated from her bank accounts during several years.

Horan has welcomed the investigation, saying he wanted the allegations cleared up.

Ormsby said he would not be laying a complaint with police until he heard back from the lawyer for his mother's estate, Mark Hornabrook.

He believed Peters made the right move sacking his brother.

He did not know what information Peters had received that made him act.

Ormsby said he wrote a summary report which he sent to Hornabrook in Auckland with the bank statements.

He claims about $80,000 was taken by his brother, including withdrawals from ATMs and TABs near his Mt Maunganui office.

As an independent backbench MP, Horan will continue to collect an annual salary of $141,800 as well as expenses of $16,100 and an accommodation allowance of up to $24,000.

Peters said Horan had a duty to resign as an MP.

"The allegations were of a nature that they should be treated seriously."

He had conducted a full inquiry into the matters relating to Horan - first raised by the Sunday Star-Times last month.

He declined to comment further outside the House, saying he had made his statement under parliamentary privilege to avoid possible legal action.

"I am not going to be subject to people spraying defamation writs."

If Horan does quit he would be replaced by the next candidate on NZ First's list, disability worker Helen Mulford. She said yesterday she was "ready to go" if called up.

Olwen Horan was 87 when she died of cancer with less than $3000 in her current account, down from $259,000 in February 2007.

She signed a codicil, or amendment, to her will in July stating that the executor of her estate, her nephew John Buck, would be authorised to recover money "loaned" to Horan and his sister Marily Bleackley "by me or taken from me by misadventure".

- The Dominion Post

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