Ousted ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has sensationally claimed former chairman Justin Milne touched her “inappropriately” in a bombshell TV interview – but he has since slammed the claims as completely false.
Appearing on ABC’s 4 Corners program on Monday night, the former boss alleged Milne touched her at a board dinner in November last year, adding: “It was inappropriate behaviour.”
When asked by reporter Sarah Ferguson if the behaviour was physical, Guthrie replied: “Inappropriate touching is the best description of it. I felt icky, it was inappropriate, it was unprofessional.”
She claimed the alleged scandal did not affect their working relationship, adding: “But it was certainly in [my] mind that in social settings… I tried to avoid putting myself into situations where that might recur.”
However, when asked on the show about the allegation, Milne vehemently denied it and added: “Definitely not. Definitely not. I think she meant that to have a sexual innuendo about it, which I can’t possibly for the life of me understand why she would say that. I’ve had no physical relationship with Michelle at all. I never, ever acted inappropriately with Michelle, or indeed with any other woman in the workforce, or any other woman.”
When Ferguson asked Guthrie why she didn’t ask for a formal investigation at the time, she replied: “Because I wanted to get on with the job… I was focused on the task at hand, there was a lot to do.”
Milne said he immediately called a board meeting when he heard about the allegations, telling the show: “The best way to deal with them would have been to have her make a complaint to formalise her issues but she declined to do that.”
Instead, Guthrie met with ABC board member Joe Gersh, who was deputised to discuss the alleged incident with her.
While Guthrie said the purpose became “very clear, that he was trying to force me to resign”, the ABC board denied this and said in a statement that Gersh “did not go to the meeting to elicit Ms Guthrie’s resignation”.
Guthrie departed her role as boss of the national broadcaster in September, with an official statement at the time saying the decision came after several months of discussions between directors. Milne later resigned from his own role several days later.
She is now suing the national broadcaster for unfair dismissal and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of being reinstated in her former role.