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Hills Radio sponsors call for investigation as allegations mount

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Community station Hills Radio could be in danger of losing financial support as sponsors call for an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault against general manager Chris Carpenter.

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Hills Radio boss accused of sexual misconduct

As InDaily revealed last week, Carpenter has been accused of indecently assaulting and sexually harassing Penelope Herbert during her time as a station volunteer and board member.

The accusations are contained within a court document, which also indicates that Carpenter was issued with a stalking caution for his behaviour towards another woman mid-last year.

Since we published that story, The Advertiser and Mount Barker newspaper The Courier have reported further accusations of misconduct on Carpenter’s part.

Representatives of three organisations that financially support or have supported the Mount Barker-based community radio station now say they want to see an investigation into Carpenter’s alleged misconduct before deciding whether to continue or renew advertising or sponsorship agreements with the station.

As a local businessman I strongly believe all staff have a right to a safe workplace.

Cornerstone College Principal Craig Fielke told InDaily the school became aware of the allegations last week and would await the outcome of an investigation before deciding whether it would continue advertising with Hills Radio.

“Cornerstone College is committed to the advocacy and education of respectful and supportive relationships in the workplace, the community and in personal circumstances,” Fielke said in a statement.

“The College will wait for the conclusion and determination of an expected meaningful and just investigation before deciding the future of any ongoing advertising arrangement with Hills Radio.”

Richard Osborne is the project director for a Mount Barker development, Springlake, that also sponsors Hills Radio.

“They are serious allegations and the board needs to (conduct) the appropriate investigations,” he told InDaily.

“We just want to see the matter investigated appropriately.”

Keith Webster of Battery World Mount Barker told InDaily that he would stop advertising with the station if the claims are upheld and Carpenter subsequently remains in his position.

“I would certainly sever ties with the station, if the claims were proven true and (Carpenter) remained with the station,” he said.

“My sponsorship is really support of a vibrant community enterprise and not an endorsement of the managing director or any other person involved in the station.

“As a local businessman I strongly believe all staff have a right to a safe workplace.”

He said he favoured the presumption of innocence and would wait until the outcome of a court proceeding to form a view.

“If the allegations are substantiated in court I would expect the general manager to step down and the board to appoint a new manager,” he said.

“At this stage I can only support the presumption of innocence as a principle of justice, no matter how compelling the story is.”

Webster added that his business has supported Hills Radio among other community endeavours in Mt Barker, such as fundraising for Guide Dogs Australia, Movember and recycling challenges at local schools.

Carpenter is not, however, subject to any criminal prosecution regarding the allegations against him.

Herbert’s allegations are contained within a Defence document in a defamation case he brought against her for a 2016 Facebook comment in which she described him as a predator. The Magistrate’s Court has at this time made no determination in that case.

At the moment (the allegations against Carpenter are) just a whole heap of accusations that haven’t been proven.

As InDaily revealed last week, the chairman of the Hills Radio board, Greg Moore, wrote to Herbert in April last year urging her against damaging the station’s reputation by airing allegations against Carpenter.

In his letter to Herbert, Moore described her allegations as “personal grievances” that related only to her “private life” – however, the letter does not identify which specific claims Moore was referring to.

InDaily also revealed 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”.

Last week, we sent a series of questions to Moore about that exchange, but received no response.

Moore told InDaily yesterday that “there are no complaints of harassment before the board”.

Herbert says she never made a formal complaint to the board of Hills Radio because Carpenter was both general manager and chairman of the board at the time – and was never contacted as part of any investigation into Carpenter’s conduct.

Another sponsor of Hills Radio, Frame Art owner Lynne Watson, told InDaily her business had had good commercial results from its partnership with the station.

“We’ve been doing it for several years,” said Watson.

“At the moment (the allegations against Carpenter are) just a whole heap of accusations that haven’t been proven.”

General manager of the Barker Hotel, John Dinan, said his business had not yet made any decision about its connection to the station.

Cameron Hawke of wealth management firm Yellow Brick Road – another sponsor of the station – told InDaily that allegations of the kind levelled against Carpenter should be aired as part of a court process, questioned the propriety of the claims being made public and declined to make further comment.

Mount Barker Mayor distances council from Hills Radio

The Mayor of Mount Barker District Council, Ann Ferguson, said the council – listed as a founding sponsor on Hills Radio’s website – no longer had any connection with the station.

In a statement to InDaily last week, on the afternoon after we published the first story detailing allegations against Carpenter, Ferguson said that her council “has had an agreement with Hills Radio Inc, which included promotion of council programs and services – council has agreements with hundreds of organisations within the district and across the state”.

“Council has no further comment to make.”

Asked the following day whether the council was still comfortable sponsoring Carpenter’s program Tuesday Hills Chat on the station, Ferguson added: “That arrangement has expired”.

InDaily then asked when the sponsorship arrangement expired, and whether the council retains any such arrangement with the station, Ferguson told us: “No connection at all”.

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