By Katherine Danks
SES deputy commissioner Tara McCarthy leaves the ICAC hearing for lunch today Source: News Limited
A WHISTLEBLOWER was sacked as deputy commissioner of the State Emergency Service after raising corruption allegations about a mate of the boss, a corruption inquiry has been told.
Former deputy commissioner Tara McCarthy uncovered a series of issues surrounding the performance of Deputy Commissioner Steven Pearce during her nine months at the agency and complained to management.
She was sacked by Commissioner Murray Kear on May 13, 2013 on the basis that he had lost trust and confidence in her ability to do her job.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether Commissioner Kear sacked Ms McCarthy in reprisal for her making corruption allegations against Deputy Commissioner Pearce.
In his opening address today, Counsel Assisting the Commission Michael Fordham SC said both Commissioner Kear and Deputy Commissioner Pearce had a longstanding friendship and their families would often holiday together.
It will be alleged that Commissioner Kear improperly showed favour to Deputy Commissioner Pearce by failing to appropriately investigate the allegations made by Ms McCarthy, Mr Fordham said.
The Commission will also hear evidence that Commissioner Kear failed to “recognise, disclose and manage a conflict of interest arising out of his friendship with Steven Pearce in connection with the hiring, managing, performance management and investigation of Deputy Commissioner Pearce and the dismissal of Tara McCarthy”.
Commissioner Kear is also alleged to have given false statements to ICAC investigators on two occasions.
The SES “is the embodiment of many of the values a contemporary Australia purports to uphold; tolerance, lending a helping hand, sticking together in tough times and mateship,” Mr Fordham said.
“The evidence suggests that Commissioner Kear allowed the importance of that last value, mateship, to permeate the manner in which he administered a significant public entity and managed the issues raised by Ms McCarthy.”
On one occasion in January 2013, Commissioner Kear gave Deputy Commissioner Pearce a “paltry performance review” and backdated a pay rise shortly before the men went on holidays together.
Mr Fordham said Ms McCarthy was not given procedural fairness in the decision to terminate her employment. An interview was “an exercise in formality” and she was escorted from the building where a cab had already been arranged to take her home.
The Commission was told that Ms McCarthy had implemented appropriate governance strategies at the SES, including altering employee rights to overtime, use of motor vehicles, parking and travel, saving the agency a lot of money.
She drew attention to the use of corporate credit cards by Deputy Commissioner Pearce for non-approved expenditure, his potential falsification of evidence used to support termination of an SES employee, as well as his potential abuses of travel allowances.
Shortly before she was sacked, Ms McCarthy criticised the management abilities of Commissioner Kear and his handling of Deputy Commissioner Pearce at a workshop in Manly attended by various rescue authorities.