Perhaps, in the end, the only thing they could agree on was that they both had much to lose and little, if anything, to gain from slagging off at each other in public.

Geoffrey Smith and the National Gallery of Victoria have reached a secret settlement, avoiding a trial that was certain to cause, at the very least, extreme embarrassment to both sides.

The only aspect of the settlement that’s officially on the record is that Smith has resigned from his job as Curator of Australian Art, a position from which he was suspended in late July after an internal investigation found he had a case to answer over allegations of serious misconduct. Smith is quoted in The Age as saying: “Now, for my brilliant career part two”.

The now-abandoned Federal Court trial, that had been scheduled to begin next Monday, was to be the next step in Smith’s battle to be reinstated in his job and to stop the gallery from further inquiring into his involvement in the commercial gallery business of his ex-lover.

According to ex-NGV spinner Corrie Perkin, writing in The Oz, Smith will be paid his statutory entitlements, including accrued long-service and holiday leave. Smith had worked at the gallery for close to 16 years. Perkin claims that the NGV and Smith will pay their own legal costs, which she estimates at more than $100,000 for both sides, but on my estimate would be closer to $200,000, if not more.

Katrina Strickland, writing in The Fin, also quotes rumours that Smith will receive “little, if anything else” other than his standard entitlements.

Strickland claims that Smith had been seeking a $200,000 payout but that the NGV’s president of Trustees Allan Myers QC had been adamant that he not get anything more than what he was entitled to under his terms of employment.

With the reputations of Smith and the NGV already tarnished by this three-month saga, the trial had the potential to do even greater damage, with each side poised to make explosive revelations about the other.

Smith’s lawyers were seeking access to documents that were said to reveal conflicts of interest involving other NGV staff and trustees. For its part, the NGV had access to a raft of documents recovered from Smith’s work computer that were believed to contain additional details about his involvement in the commercial gallery owned by his ex-partner Robert Gould.

This whole saga stemmed from Smith’s own admissions – made in a Supreme Court affidavit – about his efforts to boost the reputation of Gould Galleries. Gould denies Smith played any significant role in his business.

Peter Fray

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