Jilted candidate told her job 'a present'

·3-min read

A former senior NSW public servant appointed to a plum job in New York says she was dumped and told the role would "be a present for someone" before it was given to former deputy premier John Barilaro.

Jenny West said she felt "so confused" and "shocked" in October when the CEO of Investment NSW, Amy Brown, told her she no longer had the job, just a month after being offered the role.

Ms West was giving evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into the appointment of Mr Barilaro as the state's Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas.

"Ms Brown said that the position - and this is a quote - 'will be a present for someone'," Ms West said on Monday.

The job was later given to Mr Barilaro.

On top of losing the New York city appointment, Ms West said she was told her role with Investment NSW would also be terminated.

"(Ms Brown) added, and again I quote, 'You are an extraordinary performer and I am upset that this has happened'."

"I went in four weeks from getting ready with my family to go overseas for three years, to being told I wouldn't have a job."

She took notes during the October 14 meeting, and emailed her lawyers, concerned she would be sacked without cause.

Ms West, who had worked at Investment NSW for 18 months, was officially terminated on November 30.

She had worked closely with and reported directly to Ms Brown, who encouraged her to apply for the job and told her on August 12 she was the successful candidate.

"She sent me a text saying, 'congratulations, this is one to frame', and she had an emoji of the Statue of Liberty and a champagne bottle."

Attached to the text was a briefing acknowledging the appointment, signed by then premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Just over a month later, Ms Brown and Ms West met for a 20-minute walk at Balmoral in Sydney's north on September 17.

Ms Brown said a submission had been made to convert the role from a public service appointment to a cabinet appointment, and the job was on hold.

Ms West asked: "How could he just change something like that to put his mates in the role to help with the election?"

She recalled the question via handwritten notes taken after the meeting, but did not remember who she was referring to at the time.

Documents made public last week show Ms West's appointment was signed off by Investment Minister Stuart Ayres in August, before then deputy premier, Mr Barilaro, requested to convert roles to ministerial appointments.

Ms West later reached out to her manager, Michael Coutts-Trotter, asking for a 15-minute meeting regarding the situation.

"I did not receive a response from him," she said.

"The next I heard from him was by way of a formal letter terminating my employment."

"I am trying to move on from what has been a very disappointing episode in my life," she said.

Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said references to the $500,000-a-year role as a "present for someone" raised serious questions.

He called on Mr Ayres to explain the nature of the conversations he had with Ms Brown in October.

"Why was it Amy Brown was using that language, extraordinary language, in a meeting she then had with Ms West?"

Mr Barilaro announced last month he would withdraw from the role saying it was "not tenable with the amount of media attention this appointment has gained".

"I stress, that I have always maintained that I followed the process and look forward to the results of the review."

Premier Dominic Perrottet has also launched an internal inquiry into the appointment, led by former public service commissioner Graeme Head.

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