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'Don’t damage Hills Radio’s reputation', chairman warned female volunteer

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EXCLUSIVE | The chairman of the Hills Radio board wrote to a female volunteer last year, urging her against damaging the station’s reputation by airing allegations against general manager Chris Carpenter.

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As InDaily revealed yesterday, Carpenter, the founder and managing director of Adelaide community radio station Hills Radio, has been accused in a court document early this year of sexually harassing Penelope Herbert during her time as a station board member and volunteer, and of indecently assaulting her at his home and at the station headquarters in Mount Barker.

InDaily can now reveal that the chairman of Hills Radio, Greg Moore, wrote to Herbert in April last year, suggesting her “personal grievances” against Carpenter were none of the board’s concern and warning that the board would protect the station’s reputation “against any party who may seek to damage it”.

“The board of Hills Radio … has recently been made aware of your personal grievances with our General Manager, Mr Chris Carpenter,” the unsigned letter, dated 18 April 2017, reads.

“The board wishes to make clear its position in regards to any possible reputational or brand damage that Hills Radio may suffer directly or indirectly as a result of your legal interactions with Mr Carpenter.

“The board does not concern itself with the private life of its employees unless they are in clear breach of its by-laws and constitution or code of conduct in the workplace.

“The board of Hills Radio will always remain steadfast in its duty to protect the reputational brand of the organization against any party who may seek to damage it.”

The letter continues: “The board strongly requests that you refrain from associating your claims against Mr Carpenter with the activities, image or brand of Hills Radio.”

“The board would appreciate your considered cooperation in this matter and continues to reserve its rights in the event that this request is ignored.”

It’s not clear what claims the letter refers to.

Moore this morning confirmed the letter was sent to Herbert.

But he said: “We have no claims of harassment before the board.”

InDaily has obtained a series of correspondence between Moore and then-station volunteer Al Thorne, exchanged in mid-2017, in which the chairman claims complaints about Carpenter’s conduct were investigated and “all problems resolved”.

Thorne wrote to Moore, resigning from his position at the station and expressing concerns about Carpenter’s conduct towards volunteers.

Moore responded in an email that Thorne’s concerns would be tabled at the next board meeting.

The day after that meeting, Moore wrote to Thorne saying his emails were tabled and the board “is aware of the matters you raised”.

Thorne pressed for more information from Moore, and urged the board to investigate the allegations.

Moore responded: “There are no complaints before the Hills Radio board.”

“Those names of complainants that you gave us were all investigated. All problems resolved.

“Things you know about, things relating to police matters are outside the control of the board.”

Moore’s 21 July 2017 email continues: “Your continued emails and contacts with board members will not be tolerated and actions have been taken.”

InDaily sent a series of questions to Moore about the exchange.

We asked whether the board took any action to investigate Thorne’s allegations, what form any such investigation took, what any such investigation found and what number of complainants Moore was referring to in his email to Thorne.

We received no response.

Herbert says she never made a formal complaint detailing her allegations about Carpenter’s conduct to the board of Hills Radio.

She says the board never contacted her as part of any investigation into Carpenter’s conduct.

In a Defence document submitted to the Adelaide Magistrates Court early this year, Herbert claims that Carpenter harassed her verbally, “multiple times a week” by making lewd comments and unwanted sexual propositions at Hills Radio.

According to Herbert’s claims, detailed in the document, Carpenter also indecently assaulted her.

The sexual harassment – such as asking, “when are you going to let me fuck you” and “why don’t we go off and have a fuck”, and “why won’t you let me fuck you” – was so frequent that she simply stopped paying attention to it.

Herbert claims that in late 2014 or early 2015, she drove to Carpenter’s house and left her car there, so that they could travel in his car to Howard Vineyard, in Nairne, for a business meeting over lunch.

When they got back to Carpenter’s house, he parked his car behind hers and went inside, saying he needed to get something from the house.

According to her account, he emerged shirtless, holding towels, and asking her to get in the spa with him.

She refused.

The document details what she alleges to have happened next:

When she tried to walk to her car, he pushed her up against the brick wall of his house and tried to kiss and grope her. She forcefully pushed Carpenter off of her and demanded that he move his car so that she could leave. She continually asked him to move his car, and finally he let her out.

The Defence also details another alleged incident involving Carpenter.

It says that in September 2015, he was passing Herbert on the stairs at Hills Radio while another woman, also a volunteer at the station at the time, was on the stairs.

It is claimed Carpenter lifted up Herbert’s shirt, saying: “What have you got under there?”

Carpenter said in a statement to InDaily this week that Herbert had addressed her allegations to the Hills Radio Board and “also addressed this with other legal institutions and media outlets. All have not proceeded with these allegations”.

The Advertiser published a story detailing allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Carpenter yesterday evening, after InDaily published its story.

According to The Advertiser’s story, Moore has claimed the station was made “indirectly aware” of allegations similar to those raised, investigated them to the “best of its ability” and “found them to be false” – and that in many cases the people to whom the allegations were related did not respond to the board’s inquiries.

“Hills Radio has been very happy with and has every confidence in the performance and conduct of Mr Chris Carpenter,” he is quoted in the story as saying.

Carpenter has provided no response to InDaily’s questions about the substantive allegations in Herbert’s Defence.

However, a legal representative for Carpenter is quoted in The Advertiser’s story, saying that the board had investigated allegations against Carpenter and found them to be false.

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