Broadcaster Martin Devlin apologises over newsroom altercation, unwanted emails

Prominent broadcaster Martin Devlin has issued a “heartfelt apology” following an altercation in NZME’s Auckland newsroom – and has also acknowledged “poor judgement” in sending unwanted messages to female colleagues.

The Newstalk ZB host was off-air last weekend while an altercation with a colleague on May 10 was investigated by the company.

“An incident happened at work last week,” Devlin said in a statement today.

“I lost my rag at a radio colleague and have rightly been away from the studios while NZME has undertaken a process to investigate and determine what happened and ensure the safety of its people.

“I took a swing at my colleague during a discussion that became heated. While I never had any intention to connect, that’s not the point.

“My behaviour was wholly unacceptable, I am deeply, deeply sorry and have apologised to him and my other colleagues who witnessed it.”

It is understood Devlin is set to return to air this Saturday.

It has also emerged Devlin sent in 2018 an email to a young colleague inviting her for a drink in which he joked about a high-profile investigation into sexual harassment at a major law firm.

“Entirely unoffended if you said ‘ewwww stop it Mr Senior Partner I’m not staying’,” Devlin wrote to the woman, according to a copy of the email seen by the Herald.

The woman said she was upset by the approach and complained about it to her manager.

In a separate incident, another female employee at NZME says she received emails from Devlin last year which made her feel “uncomfortable”. She says emails from the stopped after she raised the matter with a colleague.

That woman, who still works for NZME, did not pursue a formal complaint because she did not feel “personally harmed” and the messages stopped.

Devlin said in his statement today: “I also want to acknowledge, that I have exercised poor judgement and have sent unwelcome messages to other colleagues. That I felt the messages were innocent is completely irrelevant. It’s how the recipients felt that’s paramount and I apologise profusely for making my colleagues feel uncomfortable.”

Devlin sent the 2018 email at a time when law firm Russell McVeagh was investigating allegations of sexual assault, harassment and inappropriate behaviour amongst its staff.

Devlin emailed the young woman from his work account saying he had wanted to see her at a work social function that afternoon but had been unable to attend. He said he had a “coupla things” to ask her “and please, I don’t mean from the Russel McVeigh [sic] dept”. He added a laugh emoji.

Devlin said he hoped she didn’t think he was a “rude bastard” and would like to meet for a drink another time, although he would be “entirely unoffended if you said ‘ewwww stop it Mr Senior Partner I’m not staying etc’.”

The woman told the Herald in a recent interview that Devlin’s interest in her made her uncomfortable.

After the message landed in her inbox, the woman claims, she raised it with her manager and was given the impression that it would be brought to the attention of the company’s HR department.

She says she received no contact from HR after the email and that Devlin ceased speaking to her around the office. The Herald understands HR was kept informed about the matter and the complaint was dealt with by the woman’s manager, who says they confirmed with her the actions that were undertaken as a result of the complaint. She left NZME later that year.

Three years later, the woman believes the company did not handle her complaint adequately.

NZME, which is also publisher of the Herald, said in a statement that the company “does not comment publicly on any employment matters”.

NZME said in a general statement that “its commitment is that when we deal with issues and concerns, the wellbeing of our people is a responsibility we take incredibly seriously”.

NZME declined to answer specific questions about Devlin’s emails to the female employees, citing a policy of not commenting on any employment matters.

In an emailed statement,a spokesman said: “At all times, providing a workplace that is healthy, safe and inclusive remains our ultimate duty of care to all of our people and we have robust processes and policies in place to support this.

“We encourage our people (including those who no longer work with us) to access any of the number of ways we have in place for issues and concerns to be raised. Along with talking to a manager, these options include getting in touch with our Culture & Performance Team and through NZME’s confidential and anonymous Whistleblower line.”

Devlin said in his statement today: “In relation to last week’s incident, NZME has now completed an exhaustive investigation into the incident, led by the chief of radio Wendy Palmer.

“I’m embarrassed they had to do it but grateful for the fair, independent and kind way it was done. I have been given a second chance and am able to keep my job. Radio has been my life for 31 years, I love the work I do and I can’t begin to explain how much to means to know that I can get back in the studio to broadcast about sport to sport fans.

“There are, rightly, caveats around my return to work, and although this experience has been truly awful for the man I swung at, my other work colleagues and the managers who have had to deal with the aftermath of it all, it’s been a life changing experience for me.

“To say out loud that I have been angry for well over a decade has been really hard – humiliating.

“Ever since my father died in 2007 I’ve really struggled to keep an even keel and have battled depression, ever since.

“I feel ashamed – that shame is real and dumb in equal measure. It’s inexplicable that I feel shame, particularly after the incredible work that men like Mike King and John Kirwan have done to try and destigmatise mental illness, but I can tell you the shame is very real. It seems counter intuitive but perhaps admitting it publicly may help me. I hope, at the very least, it may help the work that Mike and John do.”

The full statement from Martin Devlin

“I have a story to tell and it starts with a heartfelt apology to the man I lashed out at, my sons, family, colleagues and listeners. I have let you all down – again.

“An incident happened at work last week. I lost my rag at a radio colleague and have rightly been away from the studios while NZME has undertaken a process to investigate and determine what happened and ensure the safety of its people.

“I took a swing at my colleague during a discussion that became heated.

“While I never had any intention to connect, that’s not the point.

“My behaviour was wholly unacceptable, I am deeply, deeply sorry and have apologised to him and my other colleagues who witnessed it.

“I also want to acknowledge, that I have exercised poor judgement and have sent unwelcome messages to other colleagues. That I felt the messages were innocent is completely irrelevant. It’s how the recipients felt that’s paramount and I apologise profusely for making my colleagues feel uncomfortable.

“In relation to last week’s incident, NZME has now completed an exhaustive investigation into the incident, led by the chief of radio Wendy Palmer. I’m embarrassed they had to do it but grateful for the fair, independent and kind way it was done. I have been given a second chance and am able to keep my job. Radio has been my life for 31 years, I love the work I do and I can’t begin to explain how much to means to know that I can get back in the studio to broadcast about sport to sport fans.

“There are, rightly, caveats around my return to work, and although this experience has been truly awful for the man I swung at, my other work colleagues and the managers who have had to deal with the aftermath of it all, it’s been a life changing experience for me.

“To say out loud that I have been angry for well over a decade has been really hard – humiliating.

“Ever since my father died in 2007 I’ve really struggled to keep an even keel and have battled depression, ever since.

“I feel ashamed – that shame is real and dumb in equal measure. It’s inexplicable that I feel shame, particularly after the incredible work that men like Mike King and John Kirwan have done to try and destigmatise mental illness, but I can tell you the shame is very real. It seems counter intuitive but perhaps admitting it publicly may help me. I hope, at the very least, it may help the work that Mike and John do.

“So yeah, this incident has been a circuit-breaker for me, forcing me to confront and acknowledge every dumb and disorderly thing I have done. And yes, it’s a long, long list. Sitting on the car bonnet, exploding at criticism from listeners who have texted in, insulting and lashing out on-air at media colleagues, swinging at someone at work.

“I can, hand-on-heart, say that I genuinely believe that nothing like this will ever happen again. I begin therapy on Monday to deal with my anger.

“I want to thank Michael, Wendy, Jason and all of my NZME colleagues for their kindness, understanding and compassion – I will not let you down.

“I also want to thank my two amazing sons for their unconditional support but most of all their brutal honesty in the last week, “Dad, sort your sh*t out” was hard to hear but the truth I needed to be told. The hardest part of all of this is knowing that I am responsible for the trolling they are about to experience.

“What I have realised is that I’m not a bad person, I have just been in a bad place.

“But I will get through this and become a better man and a better father.

“The words of my own father keep ringing in my ears ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. It is now time for me to step up.”

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