The original candidate for a plum trade ambassador position in New York now taken by former deputy premier John Barilaro was given verbal confirmation she had the job.
But a parliamentary inquiry heard on Wednesday that Investment NSW had to backflip on the offer last year after the state government stepped in to make the position a political appointment.
Trade department secretary Amy Brown said the relationship with the original candidate, senior Investment NSW bureaucrat Jenny West, deteriorated suddenly after that decision and she was dubbed unsuitable for the position.
The appointment of Mr Barilaro to the lucrative New York post is being scrutinised by a parliamentary inquiry.
Last week, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced a separate review into the recruitment process.
Ms Brown told the upper house committee she personally told Ms West she would no longer be getting the role despite an initial verbal offer.
“She was extremely upset about that, understandably so,” Ms Brown said.
The Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner post comes with a $487,000 salary plus a cost of living allowance which Ms Brown said was less than the $100,000 figure reported in the media.
Ms Brown, who reported to Mr Barilaro when he was NSW trade minister, was grilled on how her former boss came to take the position.
A request was made by Mr Barilaro’s office on October 3 last year to move the trade commissioner positions from an in-house decision for Investment NSW to one requiring cabinet approval.
Cabinet is made up of high-level government ministers, including Mr Perrottet.
This meant Investment NSW were obliged to freeze all existing offers.
The following day, Mr Barilaro announced his retirement as an MP.
He was one of a handful of MPs who retired in early October last year following the resignation of then-premier Gladys Berejiklian due to the fallout from her evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The government announced Mr Barilaro’s appointment to the plum New York role earlier this month, saying he had got the job following a global talent search by a recruitment firm.
Ms Brown said she had decided in April that Mr Barilaro was the preferred candidate.