Candidate Jenny West tells inquiry she was told US trade job was a 'present', before John Barilaro hired – ABC News

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Candidate Jenny West tells inquiry she was told US trade job was a 'present', before John Barilaro hired
An executive who missed out on the position of NSW trade commissioner based in New York says she was told the job "would be a present for someone" when her employment offer was withdrawn.
Jenny West gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry which is investigating how the former deputy premier John Barilaro was subsequently appointed to the job.
Ms West was offered the position of Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for the Americas in August 2021, before being told the recruitment process was on hold while the government considered whether the roles should be political appointments.
Mr Barilaro was later appointed to the New York position but withdrew following political fallout.
Ms West has told a parliamentary inquiry, Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told her she would no longer be appointed in October 2021, and the job "would be a present for someone".
The inquiry has heard Ms West was sent a signed briefing note by the then premier Gladys Berejiklian, acknowledging the appointment. 
Jenny West's evidence sheds more light on the appointment of former NSW John Barilaro to the position of senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas. Here are five key moments from today's parliamentary inquiry hearing.
"I was so excited about the appointment," Ms West told the inquiry.
"I began taking steps to relocate."
Ms West said she had negotiated her contract, but then a month later she was advised she wasn't getting the job because cabinet had decided the commissioner roles would be political appointments.
She told the hearing she had a meeting with Ms Brown, who was involved in the recruitment process.
"She told me I would not be getting the senior trade and commissioner role for the Americas," Ms West said.
"[She said] 'I have spoken to Minister [Stuart] Ayres who has taken over the deputy premier’s portfolio and he has confirmed that you will not be getting the America's role. It will be a present for someone'.”
Ms West told the inquiry that Ms Brown sympathised with what had happened. 
"She added, and I quote, 'You are an extraordinary performer and I am upset that this has happened'." 
Mr Ayres told the ABC he "categorically rejects" any suggestion he exerted political influence over the recruitment process.
"I did not say the job was to be a 'present' for anyone and I find that idea to be offensive," he said in a statement.
"Amy Brown is and was the decision-maker for this role. Her evidence has been clear and consistent that this is a decision for the secretary and one I did not influence."
Ms Brown has previously given evidence to the inquiry that she'd questioned the suitability of Ms West for the job.
Ms West said she was "surprised" because the pair had had a good working relationship and Ms Brown was initially supportive of her application. 
Ms West also lost her job as a senior bureaucrat.
"In the space of four weeks I went from having been appointed to the role of the senior Trade Commissioner for the Americas to potentially not having a job," she said.
Ms West said she was "told" that it was John Barilaro in his capacity as trade minister who took the submission to cabinet to have the recruitment process for the commissioner roles changed to ministerial appointments.
The hearing also heard evidence of conversations documented by Ms West in her dealings with Ms Brown.
Ms West said that she met Ms Brown at Balmoral in September 2021 to discuss the deputy premier taking the submission to cabinet.
"I said I was horrified he could do that after going through the formal interview process panel, verbal offer and sign off," Ms West said. 
Ms West told the inquiry Ms Brown agreed with her.
In the documents, Ms West also said: "How could he just change some things like that to put his mates in roles to help with the election?"
When questioned by the committee who is the "he" she is referring to.
Ms West replied: "I can't remember at the time." 
Mr Barilaro's appointment to the position, which comes with a $500,000 annual salary package, was confirmed last month. 
The recruitment process has been the subject of intense media scrutiny and two separate inquiries at Macquarie Street.
Mr Barilaro last month told Investment NSW his position had become untenable and a distraction for the government and withdrew from the role.
Mr Barilaro resigned as deputy premier, and from the parliament, late last year.

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