National MP Paul Foster-Bell accused of bullying

National MP Paul Foster-Bell accused of bullying

National List MP Paul Foster-Bell is refusing to explain the high turnover of staff in his office.

He's had 12 employees leave over the past three years, in what's understood to be one of the highest employee turnover rates of any current, non-ministerial MP.

Newshub has been told by a handful of former staff members the reasons for the turnover include relationship breakdowns, an untenable work environment and jumping ship to other offices because of better offers.

Some of the woes have included internal mediation sessions, employment lawyers and interventions from Parliament's human resources staff.

Two of the cases involve staff members who, on separate occasions, complained to Parliamentary Service about Mr Foster-Bell's conduct, claiming he tried forcing each of them to resign.

In one of those cases, it's understood Mr Foster-Bell called the worker into his office, told them they were resigning, and emailed news of the "resignation" to National's whips' office and to Parliamentary Service.

Lawyers were involved in an out-of-court mediation process, which saw the employee leave with a compensatory pay-out. A source close to the situation told Newshub: "The fact is, he's a bully."

The other case saw a loyal and long-serving staff member told to resign by Mr Foster-Bell, and even given a resignation date because they had been upfront about wanting a career change.

Another source told Newshub: "They gave Paul the courtesy of telling him they wanted a new challenge, and a career change. But then without even getting, or even looking for, a new job, or even thinking about resigning, Paul gave them a specific end date."

That case also ended up in a dispute with Parliamentary Service, which sided with the staff member, claiming Mr Foster-Bell's conduct wasn't consistent with employment law.

There's no paper trail of these ordeals, which Newshub understands are recorded in Parliamentary Service's system as normal run-of-the-mill resignations.

Another former staff member quit before being pushed, and said while Mr Foster-Bell is a nice person, he's terrible at managing staff.

"I've had my name tarnished and borne the brunt of his incompetency as a manager. He's good at going to events, but the nuts and bolts of being a manager is where he's lacking," the former employee told Newshub.

Other former employees were more fortunate, with one saying they left the office on good terms.

"I'm glad I got out when I did so that I wasn't caught up in all the crap, but I don't want that to sound like I was abandoning ship because I hated working for him; I didn't. He was good to me.

"But I do feel for my former colleagues and whatever s**t they had to go through," the source says.

MP's staff are employed on their behalf by Parliamentary Service, which is more secret than any other government department and is not subject to the Official Information Act. It refused any comment on Mr Foster-Bell's employee turnover.

National MP Paul Foster-Bell accused of bullying

Mr Foster-Bell refused to discuss the matter, saying: "I'm not in a position to discuss employment matters in my office."

National's chief whip, Tim Macindoe, also refused to comment on the high staff turnover.

He provided this written comment when asked if he has confidence in Mr Foster-Bell: "I relate well to Paul and he performs all the tasks allocated to him through the Whips Office (relating to speaking lists, House duties and so on) capably and willingly."

Mr Foster-Bell entered Parliament from the National Party list in May 2013 following the resignation of Jackie Blue. He was 57th on the list, but was promoted to 46th for the 2014 election.

He failed as an electoral candidate in 2002 when he stood in Dunedin South, and in 2011 and 2014 when he stood in Wellington Central.

Mr Foster-Bell went to the University of Otago, has served time in Bill English's office, and has worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the deputy head of mission in Saudi Arabia.