Wellington, March 9 NZPA - A row over whether a Department of Internal Affairs staffer misled the media has reached Prime Minister John Key, who says he expects the department's chief executive to sort it out.
TV3 News reported tonight that the department's communications manager, Colin Feslier, did not tell the media the full story about former foreign minister Winston Peters' self-drive car.
It was known earlier this year that Mr Peters had not returned the Ford Territory, or bought it, within the deadline after the election.
He eventually bought it, several weeks late, and the issue was resolved.
But before that, Mr Feslier had told TV networks and The Dominion Post newspaper that there were no issues or difficulties with any cars assigned to former ministers.
And according to correspondence obtained by TV3 he told Ministerial Services, which manages the fleet, that he had been able to "terminate the interest" of TVNZ, TV3 and The Dominion Post in the story.
TV3 said it had an invoice showing that while Mr Feslier was telling the media there were no problems, the department was "chasing" Mr Peters for nearly $20,000.
As well as the documents obtained by TV3, email correspondence about the car has been published on at least two blogs.
Mr Key was asked about Mr Feslier's handling of the issue at his post-cabinet press conference today.
"In my opinion communications staff need to operate in a professional manner...if this particular individual hasn't, then I would expect the chief executive to address that matter," he said.
"If there are questions, I will expect the chief executive to take that up."
Labour leader Phil Goff said the media should have been given straight answers.
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