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Did the Internet Party enter the 2017 Election with less than 500 members?

masonbee Internet Party

In previous conversations with the Executive they have stood firm in saying that they had over five hundred members at the 2017 Election. This is of course the amount of members needed for a Party to be able to legally contest the election.

Jo Booth, the Party Secretary has stated,

To date, I have confidence in the legality of everything I’ve done as secretary - In terms of the membership numbers at election, Fred our former secretary declared our eligibility and until recently when our new members director @Daymond looked into it I had no concrete count of financial members.

Jo Booth, Conversations with the Internet Party Executive

But Suzie Dawson has stated that,

which means our membership database never complied with the legislation
which means, it was illegal all along

Suzie Dawson, Conversations with the Internet Party Executive

Now these conversations are from June of 2018 after the Party had been de-registered and in the above quote I believe Suzie is actually referring to an assertion she made that the database didn't have a way of tracking financial members, not the number of members. Either way, it is mildly strange that in the same conversation the Party Secretary can say something is totally legal and then the Party President can say it was totally illegal.

Suzie Dawson has also apparently known about membership problems in the Party for a long time. Fred Look, the Party Secretary in early 2017, has quoted to me an email he sent to her on 08/02/2017 stating,

Party engagement:  we have a functioning exec and around half a dozen active members.
However we do still have approx 2400 paid members that we send out emails to when necessary.  
most of these memberships will expire in may..june ..july of this year

Email from Fred Look to Suzie Dawson early 2017

So it looks like Suzie Dawson knew well before the 2017 Election that most of the membership was going to disappear, although this doesn't mean that she thought less than 500 would be left. She might have assumed that more than 500 people joined the Party after the 2014 Election.

So, did Jo Booth know? He is the Secretary of the Party, and was during the 2017 Election. It is his responsibility to make sure the membership is over 500 or to inform the Electoral Commission.

Jo Booth has said that,

14th May 2018 was when I first got a “reliable” count of financial members from the membership database.

Jo Booth, Conversations with the Internet Party Executive

Which is a little strange because, according to Fred, Jo had the database since June 2017. In December of 2017 there was even a conversation between Fred and Jo about the membership problems.

It it your intention to simply disregard

and continue without 500 members?

You do realise that this is your responsibility and neck not suz / exec's ?

Fred Look, 19/12/2017

Fred, it is not my intention. We have planned to do an audit of membership in the new year as resourcing and funding allows. At present in the run up to Christmas I haven’t the time nor inclination to confirm nor deny your claims. We had intended to pull together the audit materials in around the 20th January and I’ll be happy to share that with you then. 
At present neither the exec nor I have any accurate figures on membership and so it is inflammatory to suggest there is an agenda to defraud the commision. We have had a number of renewals in the past few months and should be in a good position, but until we have an effective membership director to follow up it’s going to have to wait. 

Jo Booth, 20/12/17 11:41,

the plan to run with "no intention to defraud" works for suzie and exec but not for you!

I never said that there was an intention to defraud , I am well aware that Suzies actions are to establish that she "did not know"  ie ....its your fault!

What I AM saying is that neither the EC or the NZ Police will accept "no intention the defraud" in your case. The act specifically puts the responsibility "To Know" on to you individually

The membership secretary roll is one of the main failings of the constitution that we will need to fix. IF there is to be a membership secretary that roll MUST answer to party Secretary and no one else.(ie NOT EXEC)

The electoral act does not recognize any responsibility of EXEC, Leader, or membership secretary.  ONLY YOU.  the whole point of the Secretary roll under the Act is to have an INDIVIDUAL to hold accountable, thats YOU

ya know despite the crap that Suzie spins, I really am trying to save your ass here!

Fred Look, 20/12/2017

Unfortunately for Jo, the link in Freds email spells out very clearly the obligation for the Party Secretary under the Electoral Act.

Ensure the Commission is notified if the party’s membership falls below 500 current financial members who are eligible to enrol at any time.

Electoral Commisssion

'At any time' is the killer here. It is not enough for the Secretary to to rely on the Annual Return. They are responsible for informing the Electoral Commission if the count falls below 500 at any time.

In the end, I don't know if they did enter the 2017 Election with less than 500 members but since a large amount of public money was given to the Party I think it should be looked at, especially since they seem to have no idea what the memberships numbers were.

Image used is Election by Nick YoungsonCC BY-SA 3.0Alpha Stock Images