Nov 13, 2013

Public servant in a rage after Obeid snub – The Daily Telegraph

By Katherine Danks

A SENIOR public servant who was “well connected in Labor circles” wanted a junior officer to be sacked after she argued with the son of disgraced MP Eddie Obeid.

Department of water and energy director general Mark Duffy was “extremely angry”, “emotional” and highly-agitated when told officer Sue Heaney could not be sacked without due process.

Peter Leihn, former executive director in the director general’s office, said Mr Duffy received a faxed complaint on 21 November 2008 about a heated conversation between Ms Heaney and Damian Obeid.

The fax stated that Ms Heaney had acted unprofessionally and that she also said a generous water allocation offered by a senior officer to the Obeid family property was incorrect.

“I was aware that he had a relationship with Mr Obeid Snr and I made an assumption that the fax had been presented as representations from Mr Obeid Snr on behalf of his son,” Mr Leihn told the Independent Commission against Corruption.

Mr Leihn agreed with a submission from Assistant Commissioner Anthony Whealy QC that at the time he believed Ms Heaney had “chosen the wrong person to wrangle with”.

“Mr Duffy was well connected in Labor circles and Mr Duffy probably wanted to keep him (Eddie Obeid) happy.”

The Commission was told that Mr Leihn was asked to investigate the complaint on the Friday that the fax arrived.

Mr Leihn ranked Mr Duffy’s level of agitation at the complaint as about seven out of 10.

On Monday morning, Mr Leihn was asked to join a meeting about the complaint with Mr Duffy and senior department officers Erica Stafford and Garry Hodson.

“He said he wanted her sacked and Stafford and Hodson were indicating to him that it couldn’t be done without due process and (he asked me) did I agree,” Mr Leihn said.

“I replied in the affirmative.”

Mr Leihn ranked Mr Duffy’s level of agitation in the meeting as “in the nines”. Mr Duffy told the three officers that he wanted the matter investigated and “there was an implied expectation to all of us that he wanted us to move quickly on the issue.”

Mr Leihn was tasked with investigating whether 860 megalitres was the correct allocation for the Cherrydale Park. Ms Stafford was to investigate Ms Heaney’s conduct.

The ICAC is examining allegations that Eddie Obeid corruptly lobbied for water licences, cafe leases and contracts for a health services company when he was an MP.

Former Labor minister Joe Tripodi and senior public servants Mr Duffy and Steve Dunn are also facing corruption allegations.

The inquiry continues.

The Daily Telegraph – Public servant in a rage after Obeid snub


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