Concerns about former NSW minister Eleni Petinos were raised with her colleagues months before she was fired, officials revealed on Wednesday.
The former fair trading and small business minister was sacked on July 31, after allegations of bullying – which Ms Petinos denies – were raised in media reports.
But Department of Customer Service secretary Emma Hogan told a budget estimates hearing she was told about workplace issues in Ms Petinos’ office as early as April.
“There were probably two things … one was concerns about respectful behaviour in meetings and another was about some cultural concerns that had been raised with me about working in her office,” Ms Hogan said.
While the issues raised were not formal complaints, Ms Hogan said she brought it up with Ms Petinos the following month.
Premier Dominic Perrottet also said he was aware of concerns prior to her sacking, and that he told Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello to speak with Ms Petinos.
Mr Dominello insisted he didn’t receive any formal complaints.
“Workplace complaints are dealt with by the department of premier and cabinet and, where appropriate, escalated to the attention of the premier and his office,” he said.
Mr Dominello said the concerns raised with him had to do with “workflow issues” due to Ms Petinos having a lack of staff working for her.
Mr Perrottet also revealed Ms Petinos had offered to resign when they spoke on the phone during an overseas trip the Premier made in July.
That offer came after the public had learnt about the bullying allegations in media reports.
“She said during the phone call that, ‘If it would help you, I would resign.’ There was no basis for her to do that,” Mr Perrottet said.
“It’s not about helping me, it’s about doing what’s right,” he said of his thinking at the time.
“I returned, I made my own inquiries, and my own decision (to fire her).”