Jennifer West sues Stuart Ayres for misuse of power

Jennifer West sues Stuart Ayres for misuse of power

Jennifer West, a woman offered a $500,000-a-year New York trade commissioner job that ultimately went to John Barilaro, is suing former deputy premier and former trade minister Stuart Ayres for misuse of power.

West alleges that Barilaro, Ayres, and former Investment NSW boss Amy Brown acted outside their public powers by rescinding her job offer and terminating her employment, causing her reputation and economic damage. The suit also names the state of NSW as a defendant.

The case is due in court on April 27. Bill Spedding and Danielle Laidley have recently filed similar lawsuits.

West, a former Deputy Secretary of Investment NSW, claims that Brown initially offered her the New York job but withdrew the offer after Barilaro suggested the job be allocated by ministerial appointment, which Cabinet agreed to.

West alleges that Barilaro sought the job for his advantage, Brown allowed personal and political interests to influence her, and Ayres acted for political reasons and to help Barilaro.

West’s statement of claim also accuses Brown of inventing reasons West was unsuited to the New York job and Ayres of joining with Brown in allowing “false representations to the effect that West was unsuited to the appointment.” According to the claim, all three knew their actions were outside their public powers and would cause West damage.

At a parliamentary inquiry last year, West said Brown had told her the New York role would become a “present for someone.” Barilaro, who had resigned from parliament, was appointed by Ayres. West was later made redundant from Investment NSW.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption recently found no evidence of corrupt conduct by Barilaro after a seven-month investigation. Still, a Labor-dominated inquiry found Barilaro’s appointment had “all the trademarks of a ‘job for the boys’ position.”

West’s statement of claim argues that her termination was neither in the public good nor in good faith and was done to “remove West from a position in which West could potentially embarrass Brown, Ayres, Barilaro, or the government.”

The claim alleges Barilaro was involved in discussions that led to the termination of West’s appointment to New York and resigned from parliament to take the job himself, actions outside his public power and done in the knowledge they would cause her damage.

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