Martin Cooper, a parliamentary staffer for Pita Sharples, has landed himself in the shit. Details are sketchy, but this is what is known so far.
Last year Cooper, a former Black Power member, was hired by a property developer to assist in obtaining council permits and selling a property. The property in question was the former Black Power Pad which Police seized in a drug bust. The Police sold the property to the developer. The developer then looked to sell the property back to the Black Power. The Black Power referred the developer to Cooper. The two men came to an agreement that Cooper would receive $5000 for arranging the sale and Cooper would also assist in obtaining development permits from the Council. On March 12 2010 Cooper and Pita Sharples wrote to the Council on Maori Party letterhead, not parliamentary letterhead it should be noted, in support of the developer. One month later Cooper outlined to the developer his plans to write to Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, former Mayor John Banks and a departmental manager at the former Auckland City Council in support of the developer and his problems with the Council. Cooper said “Political pressure will hopefully place the council into submission where they will be ordered to shut it down”. After some refusal, the developer eventually paid Cooper the $5000. Early this year the developer wrote to John Key asking for help and outlined what had occurred. It appears the sale fell through. The Prime Minister’s Office forwarded the developers concerns to the Justice Minister’s Office. The Herald tried to contact the Minister’s Office but did not receive a reply by deadline.
This is unacceptable behaviour from an employee of Parliamentary Services. I don’t have the Parliamentary Services Code of Conduct at hand, but surely this sort of behaviour will breach the code. Worryingly, Pita Sharples may be implicated too. Is it appropriate for a Minister to support the developer in this matter? Naturally, we will need to see the contents of the letter Sharples sent to the Council to know whether Sharples is guilty of anything untoward. But it looks shady.
In a dumb move, Sharples is standing behind Cooper. Sharples was approached with the emails but refused to even read them saying he is behind Cooper “100%”. That was a stupid thing to say. Cooper is, prima facie, guilty of abusing his position. Cooper used his position as a Parliamentary Staffer to a well known Minister to make money. Essentially, Cooper acted in his capacity as a Parliamentary Staffer in furtherance of his own financial ends – this is unacceptable.
Hopefully, the media shines more light on this.
UPDATE: I/S at No Right Turn points out that Cooper is probably liable for corruption under the Crimes Act 1961. I/S thinks Sharples should pay the political price for supporting Cooper. Agreed.