A prominent ally of Kathy Jackson has been accused of shopping around dubious evidence to knock out an election rival as the battle for control of the remains of the Health Services Union again turns toxic.
Crikey can reveal that Marco Bolano, the former deputy general secretary of the HSUEast branch overseen by disgraced and charged Michael Williamson, has written repeatedly to the union’s administrator Michael Moore to demand his opponent for Victorian No. 1 branch secretary — former Darebin council deputy mayor Diana Asmar — be ejected from the race on eligibility grounds.
But extensive communication and documentary evidence suggests that many of the claims are questionable and, if pressed, are likely to be forensically examined in the Federal Court.
Asmar says her rivals have deliberately struck her name off the HSU membership database to leave her nascent campaign stillborn. Indeed, Salesforce database records show that when Asmar called the HSU membership centre on August 9, an officer confirmed her membership had “been resigned”. Moore subsequently re-admitted her as a member on August 14.
According to the No. 1 branch’s recently amended rules, a candidate for secretary must be a current member and must have been a continuous member for 12 months at the date of nomination. A member of the union must also hold a position or be seeking work in the health industry.
Asmar told Crikey she had in fact been a member of the union since 1998. “I’m fighting these elections because members are sick of the corruption and people lying to them,” she said, telling Bolano, who did not respond to requests for comment, to “bring it on” in court if he thought they had any substance.
A series of emails sent by Bolano to Administrator Michael Moore in late August, obtained by Crikey, argues that Asmar had not mentioned her employment at a Western suburbs GP clinic, Complete Family Care, when she was interviewed by Bolano for an organiser position at HSUEast in March. The email also dredges up an unrelated allegation stemming from the 2009 election which, just five days earlier, had been curiously rehashed in The Australian.
Bolano makes reference to a statutory declaration, apparently written by a Complete Family Care employee, Jacinta Roleff, that states “there is no staff member named Diana Asma [sic]. She has never worked at Complete Family Care since I have been employed there”.
However, Crikey has also obtained a subsequent email from Roleff which recants that statement. This appears to have been sent after Bolano issued a plea to Roleff to give him permission to flick the statement to the media. A call to Complete Family Care this morning revealed that Asmar did in fact work there and was currently on leave.
Asmar is running under the Together We Are One banner against Bolano, Sherida Jacks and Ricky Lovell for secretary of the demerged No. 1 branch, previously controlled by Jackson’s ex-husband Jeff (read the full list of nominations here). However, the Australian Electoral Commission is yet to rule on whether the nominations have been accepted.
A spokesperson for the AEC confirmed that is was currently checking eligibility before acceptances are finalised for the postal ballot that opens on November 2 and closes on November 23.
Bolano has been in constant presence alongside Jackson at her myriad of media appearances and was accused by Craig Thomson in federal Parliament of early this year of having set the MP up with “a bunch of hookers”. If the dispute proceeds to court then there is a strong possibility that the No. 1 branch ballot would be delayed, possibly into next year.
As Crikey documents elsewhere in today’s edition, the three branches of the demerged union are facing huge financial difficulties in the aftermath of the May 2010 tie-up that came as a surprise to the many of the union’s members. According to a financial health check conducted by accountants VJ Ryan & Co, more than $7 million was wiped off the combined union’s asset base at June 30 this year.
Despite relocating to Sydney, Kathy Jackson’s legacy continues to loom large. The branch’s nominations list reveals that allies running for her former Victorian No. 3 branch election, led by secretary candidate Fleur Behrens, bears a striking similarity to that of the Jackson era.