‘Not correct’: Aus Post chair hits back
Australia Post's chair has hit back at former CEO Christine Holgate's claims he "unlawfully" stood her down and abandoned her to a "media firestorm", insisting that was "not correct".
In a point-by-point riposte to her allegations published online, Lucio Di Bartolomeo said Ms Holgate was not forced out of her job after the Cartier watches scandal but agreed to stand aside pending the outcome of a shareholder investigation.
"Ms Holgate claims that she was unlawfully stood down. That is not correct," Mr Di Bartolomeo wrote in the statement published on Australia Post's website on Wednesday evening.
Ms Holgate left her role as Australia Post chief executive in November following revelations senior executives were gifted expensive Cartier watches.
In a fiery written submission to a Senate inquiry on Tuesday, Ms Holgate alleged she was "humiliated" and "thrown under the bus" by management and never agreed to stand down.
But her former boss said Ms Holgate agreed to stand aside in phone conversations with him in breaks during a board meeting on October 22, 2020, adding that the board's intent was to focus on cooperation with the investigation.
"My objective was, subject to the findings of the investigation, to have Ms Holgate back performing her role as soon as possible," he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier on Wednesday also insisted she left the role of her own volition, despite telling Parliament in October that the gifts were "disgraceful" and that "she can go" if she refused to resign.
Mr Di Bartolomeo said Ms Holgate resigned in writing on November 2 and said she would not be seeking financial compensation. He said the board "understood the reasoning" but was "saddened and disappointed" by her resignation.
"Ms Holgate claims that I made a counter-offer which would have prevented her from working for 12 months without pay. That is not correct," he continued.
He said that Ms Holgate's contract included standard non-compete provisions that "apply only to working for a competitor for a period of six months from the end of Ms Holgate's employment - and therefore expire on 2 May 2021."
He said Ms Holgate's claims of continuous requests to examine credit card expense records intended to cause her harm and her claims of leaked misleading reports on expenses were also "not correct".
The chair said Australia Post was "obligated to disclose" credit card and expense information in response to Senate Committee questions and Freedom of Information requests.
Mr Di Bartolomeo said acknowledged Ms Holgate's "strong leadership" and "significant contribution to the organisation" as "a very good chief executive".
He said she had been provided "extensive and ongoing support" from human resources.
"Ms Holgate's welfare has remained a priority for Australia Post and we have ensured the organisation continues to offer support during what clearly is a difficult time," he wrote.
"Notwithstanding our ongoing offers of support, it is important to correct some of the points attributed to Ms Holgate in recent media reporting."
Mr Di Bartolomeo said he "felt it was important to clarify these points at the earliest opportunity", adding that Australia Post was "considering" whether to make a further submission to the Senate Inquiry, with the next hearing scheduled for April 13.
"At all times, Australia Post has worked constructively with Ms Holgate during what has undoubtedly been a difficult process for everyone involved," he concluded. "Australia Post is a better and stronger organisation thanks to her contribution, and we sincerely wish her all the best in her future endeavours."
In January, the government released the findings of a report into the saga that found the gifts were "inconsistent" with Australia Post's obligations.
But it cleared Ms Holgate of deliberately misleading or misusing taxpayer funds.
Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland on Wednesday said the Prime Minister's intervention had "effectively sacked" Ms Holgate.
Greens senator and chair of the inquiry Sarah Hanson-Young said Ms Holgate's departure was a sign of a "boys club" in the government that refused to investigate wrongdoing within its own ranks.
Originally published as 'Not correct': Aus Post chair hits back