22 Aug 2013

Commissioner discussed Thorn resigning

7:14 pm on 22 August 2013

The State Services Commissioner says he discussed with the former Parliamentary Service head the option of him resigning the day before he stepped down.

Geoff Thorn appeared on Thursday before Parliament's Privileges Committee.

Former head of the Parliamentary Service, Geoff Thorn.

Former head of the Parliamentary Service, Geoff Thorn. Photo: RNZ

MPs are looking are looking into the unauthorised release of a journalist's email and phone records to the inquiry looking into who leaked her a report on the Government's spy agency.

Mr Thorn quit his job when it emerged Andrea Vance's phone records and her emails were released to the David Henry inquiry into the leak of the GCSB report, without her consent.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, says he discussed Mr Thorn's options with him and one of those was for him to resign.

But Mr Rennie says the decision to resign was Mr Thorn's.

The Speaker David Carter who was Mr Thorn's boss is refusing to comment on the matter.

On Tuesday, Mr Henry told the committee it was up to Parliamentary Service to decide on what material should be released and get any authorisation needed.

Mr Thorn said he was surprised to hear that. When he decided to release details of Ms Vance's movements around Parliament, he said he had to consider the fact that Mr Henry considered it a security matter.

Mr Thorn said with hindsight he should have talked to Mr Henry about the various requests for information.

Mr Thorn also allowed ministers' email and phone records to be released after the Prime Minister's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson convinced him that the ministers concerned had given their consent and that it wasn't his job to second guess Mr Eagleson's authority.

Mr Thorn said he resigned because he had let himself, the Service and ministers down and that he doesn't consider himself a scapegoat.

Prime Minister John Key said no one from his office suggested Mr Thorn should resign and that Mr Eagleson was right to give his authority to Mr Thorn to release the information on the ministers.

But Labour says Mr Key and Mr Eagleson both have questions to answer as they've ignored the distinction between the executive and Parliamentary Service.