Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo has responded to former chief executive Christine Holgate’s claims that he “unlawfully” stood her down and “abandoned” her last year.
Holgate had resigned in November after it was revealed that the organisation had spent $19,950 on Cartier watches for four of its senior employees in 2018.
The revelations had prompted a departmental investigation as well as a senate inquiry into AusPost.
In a recent 154-page submission to the inquiry, Holgate said she had been “humiliated in parliament and then unlawfully stood down” by Di Bartolomeo for “no justified reason”.
The former chief also accused Di Bartolomeo of lying to parliament and to the public.
“Time after time he has made statements that I had agreed to stand down when I had done no such thing,” she said.
“He then abandoned me to a media firestorm that he and others had created and cut me off from resources, despite knowing that these events had caused me to seek mental health care and medication.”
Holgate claimed Di Bartolomeo had treated her like a “criminal”, despite the gifting of the Cartier watches falling within AusPost’s policies and having been approved by other members of the organisation.
“When I offered to resign to protect our organisation, my letter to him was leaked to the media before he had even responded to me,” she said.
“When I asked that afternoon for an opportunity to send a message to all Australia Post employees to thank them for the privilege of working with them, it was denied.”
Di Bartolomeo on Wednesday issued a statement to “correct some of the points” Holgate made in her submission.
He rejected Holgate’s accusation that she was forced to stand down, and said he had intended for Holgate to return to her role “as soon as possible” once a departmental investigation into the gifting of the watches was complete.
He said the Australia Post Board was “saddened and disappointed” when Holgate resigned, and has continued to offer her “extensive and ongoing support”.
“The agreement for Ms Holgate to stand aside was reached between myself and Ms Holgate in telephone discussions late that afternoon [on October 22], in breaks during a board meeting that commenced at approximately 4.00pm. The board did not stand down, or suspend, Ms Holgate from her role — that being an unnecessary consideration given her agreement to stand aside,” he said.
Other claims Di Bartolomeo rejected related to the circumstances surrounding Holgate’s resignation, ‘leaked’ reports, and compensation.
Australia Post will appear before the senate inquiry on April 13.
On Wednesday federal member for Kennedy Bob Katter said he would move a motion in parliament to reinstate Holgate as CEO.