Lawyer salary

Lawyer Chris Carr claims Jenny West never offered New York job in John Barilaro investigation

A senior government lawyer says an investigation into how former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro landed a plum-trading job in New York has closed claims the role was snatched from the top official Jenny West.

The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry returned on Tuesday, hearing from Chris Carr, General Counsel to the Department for Business, Trade and Investment, who held the same position at Investment NSW from last June until April 2022.

Former civil servant Jenny West previously told the inquiry that she had been offered the job of senior trade and investment commissioner for the Americas worth $500,000 a year.

Ms West said she lost her senior job at Investment NSW and was made redundant after she retired from her position in New York. The overseas role eventually went to Mr Barilaro, who stepped down after public outcry in June.

Department of Business, Trade and Investment General Counsel Chris Carr (above) claimed Jenny West had never been offered the $500,000 trading post job at New York during a parliamentary inquiry hearing on Tuesday.

Appearing at the inquest last week, Ms West said Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told her she no longer had the job a month after she was offered the job because she was “a gift for someone”.

Before the job was called off, Ms West told the inquest she received a text message from Ms Brown on August 12, 2021, with a signed note from then Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian confirming that she had the role.

‘Congratulations. It’s a frame to frame,’ Ms Brown wrote, adding Statue of Liberty smileys and a sparkling bottle of champagne.

On Tuesday, Mr Carr said he had “limited” involvement in Mr Barilaro’s appointment to the plum job and disputed evidence given by other witnesses.

Ms West’s testimony that she had ‘fully offered herself the job’ was ‘not correct’, he said.

Ms West (above) claims she was verbally offered the dream job last year before Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told her a month after she was offered the job role that his offer was retracted, saying that

Ms West (above) claims she was verbally offered the dream job last year before Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told her a month after she was offered the job role that his offer was retracted, saying “it will be a gift for someone”.

He added that Ms West had said she had tax problems in the United States which would prevent her from taking the job in New York for some time.

“Ms West said: ‘I need to find a US tax expert here who can advise me because you’ll see there are implications in many areas, and most importantly, I can’t move forward until that’s not settled,” Mr. Carr said.

“I felt that there were important contractual clauses which (had) not yet been finalized, in particular with regard to taxation.

“I understand that Ms. West was well along in the process, but not at the end.”

John Barilaro (above), who created the job in New York in 2020, was offered the job after Ms West was fired

John Barilaro (above), who created the job in New York in 2020, was offered the job after Ms West was fired

Mr Carr was asked in September to prepare advice on why the appointment of the chief trade and investment commissioners was a civil service appointment and whether it could be ministerial.

He told the hearing that the request came from Ms Brown or her chief of staff and not from Mr Barilaro, with whom he had little interaction.

“I received a few questions afterwards from a junior officer in Mr. Barilaro’s office. They were tied to the constitution and they were tied to the Commonwealth Foreign Relations Act,” Carr said.

Ms Brown previously told the inquest the request came from the former Deputy Prime Minister’s office.

Mr Carr (above) denied commenting on the job when he allegedly told Ms West he was

Mr Carr (above) denied commenting on the job when he allegedly told Ms West he was ‘appalled’ by her treatment in the recruitment process, saying he was just comforting a colleague

Ms West told the hearing that she spoke to Mr Carr after learning she would not be sent to New York for the job and took note of their conversation at the time.

In a phone call last September, she said Mr Carr told her he was “horrified” by her situation.

It was his interpretation. It was not a word I would have used,’ he told the inquest.

“I felt the need to console her…I felt it was open to me, as a colleague, on a human level, to bring her some comfort.”

“I didn’t give advice. Any of my answers would have been taken with a grain of salt as it was an environment (where she was disappointed).

“I don’t think I was giving an opinion on the job description for those roles.”

Ms West submitted a note she had written during their September 17 phone call, after hearing that the verbal offer had been withdrawn.

“His comments were: you were offered the job, you got it signed and you were just waiting for the contract, then it happens…if it was me, I would be bitterly disappointed,” he said. she writes.

Ms West submitted a note (above) she took during a telephone conversation with Mr Carr as evidence of the inquest in which she wrote that he said to himself

Ms West submitted a note (above) she took during a telephone conversation with Mr Carr as evidence of the inquest in which she wrote that he said he was ‘horrified’ by her treatment .

Documents show another highly qualified woman, Hong Kong-based executive Kimberley Cole, was shortlisted for the job after it was reposted.

Other documents were withheld from the public after government lawyers claimed they were confidential.

Mr Barilaro announced last month that he would step down from his post, saying it was “unsustainable given the media attention this appointment has generated”.

He maintained that he followed the proper processes.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (above) has launched an internal investigation into Mr Barilaro's appointment which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (above) has launched an internal investigation into Mr Barilaro’s appointment which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks

“It is clear that my assumption of office is no longer tenable given the media attention this appointment has generated,” Barilaro said in a June 30 statement.

“I believe that my appointment will continue to be a distraction and will not allow this important role to accomplish what it was designed to do, and therefore my decision.

“I emphasize that I have always maintained that I have gone through the process and look forward to the results of the review.”

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has launched an internal investigation into the appointment, led by former Civil Service Commissioner Graeme Head, which he expects to be finalized in the coming weeks.

Swap seats: How John Barilaro won — then dropped — a top-notch gig in New York

The post of NSW Chief Trade and Investment Commissioner in New York comes with a salary of $487,000 plus a cost of living allowance of $16,000.

It was created along with four other similar roles by then Trade Minister John Barilaro in November 2020.

Jenny West, then assistant secretary for NSW Investment, learned she had won the job in New York in August after beating three other candidates from a shortlist of interviewees.

Mr. Barilaro requested changes to the recruitment process in late September, which required it to be approved by the state cabinet, although that did not happen.

This led to the withdrawal of the verbal offer made to Ms West.

The relationship between Ms West and Investment NSW then became ‘irreconcilable’.

The position was advertised through a process managed by Investment NSW and a global recruitment company.

Mr Barilaro was verbally offered the job in May, signed a three-year contract in June and was due to start in July.

Nearly $1 million has been spent to renovate part of the Australian consulate in New York for Mr Barilaro to occupy.

Commerce Department Secretary Amy Brown worked under Mr. Barilaro when he was Commerce Secretary.

She said she did not know whether Mr Barilaro had ever asked his replacement as trade minister, Stuart Ayres, to give him the job.

Ms Brown expressed concerns last year in internal communications that Mr Barilaro’s office would try to veto her picks for the role.

She said a staff member on temporary secondment misunderstood when she sent an email, since resurfaced, asking for the prime minister’s approval for two more commissioner appointments when recruitment was an apolitical process .