Less than two months before the September 19 election, Ardern fired her Labour colleague, who was also immigration minister, for “not modelling the behaviour I expect as a minister”.
Ardern summoned the 41-year-old to her office on Tuesday after being forwarded a series of allegations from the Opposition Leader’s office.
Without disclosing many details in an attempt to protect the privacy of the staff member, Ardern said she lost confidence in Lees-Galloway given the nature of the pair’s working relationship and his ministerial responsibilities.
“I am weary about making moral judgments here. For me this is about conduct within a particular set of ministerial expectations,” she said.
“In undertaking this relationship he has opened himself up to an allegation of improperly using his office,” Ardern said.
“Parliament is a place where we maintain standards.
“He has not modelled the behaviour I expect as a minister.”
Lees-Galloway, who is married with three children, told the Labour leader the year-long affair was consensual but accepted the PM’s call in a brief written statement.
“I have acted completely inappropriately in my position and cannot continue as a minister,” he said.
“I have apologised to my family for letting them down. Please appreciate their privacy. I also apologise to anyone who has been hurt by my actions.”
The 41-year-old’s departure comes two days after opposition MP Andrew Falloon resigned from parliament for sending unsoliticited pornographic images to young women.
Falloon’s shock exit – which is being investigated by police – began with an email to Ardern’s office, which the PM forwarded to opposition leader Judith Collins.
In a role reversal, Lees-Galloway’s political demise was assured when Ms Collins received an email from a third party.
Collins’ went public with the tip-off during a television appearance on Wednesday morning.
“I have advised the prime minister and I have asked for anybody who has that information to send it directly to her,” Collins told Three.
Ardern indirectly criticised Ms Collins for raising the matter in the media.
“There are clear differences in the way I chose to deal with the information I received … it’s up to everyone else’s judgment whether it was appropriate,” she said.
Lees-Galloway’s portfolios have been redistributed among senior Labour MPs, with Kris Faafoi entering Cabinet.
Faafoi picks up immigration, former leader Andrew Little adds workplace relations to his Justice responsibilities and Carmel Sepuloni takes up the Accident Compensation Corporation load.
Last year, Faafoi was forced to apologise after promising to improperly intervene in an immigration request on behalf of a friend – only to not do so.
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