Jul 5, 2008

Winston's Mystery Man - And You Might Be Paying Him

This article from the Dominion Post caught our eye. If you read some quotes you might see why...

A NZ First staffer likely to face police scrutiny in a test of new electoral laws has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for a job many in his party know almost nothing about.
Tommy Gear, a close friend of party leader Winston Peters, is expected to be questioned by police following an alleged breach of the Electoral Finance Act.
The case is the first under the controversial new law governing political party advertising to have been referred to police by the Electoral Commission.
Mr Gear is likely to be questioned about NZ First banners that were strung from the remains of his property in Maxwells Rd, Tauranga, in April.
Mr Gear has been employed by the Parliamentary Service, which administers Parliament, from as early as 1998.
He has occasionally used his black Mercedes to chauffeur Mr Peters and carry his bags - but what else Mr Gear has done for a salary in some years of up to $50,000 is a mystery to many party officials.
Mr Peters often stayed with Mr Gear and his wife at their former million-dollar Maxwells Rd property. Mr Gear occasionally stays with Mr Peters in Wellington.
Sources say many NZ First officials have little or no idea of what Mr Gear has done for a salary that has fluctuated between $19,000 and $50,000. Mr Gear was seen in Parliament only a few times a year, a source said.


Contacted yesterday, Mr Peters would not answer repeated questions about whether Mr Gear worked for NZ First.
"Print one thing wrong, sunshine, and I will sue you," Mr Peters said before hanging up.
Mr Gear would not comment on questions about his role in the banners and whether he was on the NZ First payroll.
Speaking in 2002, he would not say if he was on the payroll, stating: "We all want to do something for our country, don't we?"
The Parliamentary Service is taxpayer-funded and is the agency that provides administrative and support services to Parliament.
Mr Gear is a director and owner of NZ Gear and Tommy Gear. His Maxwells Rd property, valued at $1.5 million and being developed for private sale, is a few doors away from retiring National MP Bob Clarkson, who wrested the Tauranga electorate from Mr Peters.
In Mr Gear's early years working for Mr Peters, his job was to maintain relationships with local authority leaders and to deputise for Mr Peters when he was away from his electorate.
But former Tauranga mayor Noel Pope said he never met or spoke to Mr Gear about briefings. Mr Pope met Mr Peters each month. "Tom is a mate of [Mr Peters] ... He is his minder."
Current mayor Stuart Crosby said he had only ever seen Mr Gear acting as a driver for Mr Peters.
In February 2000 Mr Gear was fined $500 after being clocked at 168kmh driving Mr Peters to Auckland airport.