Former Gympie Regional Realty rental manager Debra Mason (right) has prevailed in her civil case against her former company, which was directed by Margaret Cochrane (left).
Former Gympie Regional Realty rental manager Debra Mason (right) has prevailed in her civil case against her former company, which was directed by Margaret Cochrane (left).

Court rules on case between former manager and CBD business

THE owner of recently wound-up Gympie Regional Realty has been ordered to pay a former manager more than $23,000 owed in termination payouts.

Debra Bettina Mason took the once-prominent Gympie business to civil court following her resignation in July last year, claiming she had not been paid the full $38,000 negotiated.

Lawyers for Gympie Regional Realty, and its director Margaret Cochrane, alleged Ms Mason had defrauded the company and as such the agreement should be torn up.

Ms Mason claimed Gympie Regional Realty, which was sold in the middle of this year, had not paid her more than $22,000 in entitlements agreed to when she resigned.
Ms Mason claimed Gympie Regional Realty, which was sold in the middle of this year, had not paid her more than $22,000 in entitlements agreed to when she resigned.

These claims centred on a credit card issued to Ms Mason which received commissions from a third party, Direct Connect, whenever new tenants used its telephone, internet and electricity connection services.

Ms Cochrane said she was unaware of the card’s existence.

But Magistrate Chris Callaghan said this did not prove wrongdoing by Ms Mason.

“It is quite possible for Ms Cochrane to be unaware of the existence of the card and

commissions and there is still no evidence of fraud,” Mr Callaghan said.

That the card was secret was also disputed.

Ms Mason told the court under cross-examination the card was issued to her but used by everybody in the office and everyone knew the PIN number.

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Magistrate Chris Callaghan ruled fraud allegations at the heart of GRR’s defence were not proven.
Magistrate Chris Callaghan ruled fraud allegations at the heart of GRR’s defence were not proven.

Mr Callaghan said this was supported by an affidavit by former GRR staff member Jason Margetts, which said when he asked about the card, “an employee then went to her desk, opened the top drawer and produced the card”.

A dispute over whether the Direct Connect payments were ever accounted for in the company’s books also fell short.

“This may be so, but the fact that these transactions were never entered in the books is not evidence of fraud,” he said.

“Mr Margetts’ suspicions and significant concerns do not prove that Ms Mason has committed a fraud upon GRR.”

The case was taken to a civil hearing at Gympie Magistrates Court last month.
The case was taken to a civil hearing at Gympie Magistrates Court last month.

Questions were also raised by GRR’s lawyers over Ms Mason’s termination agreement, signed by Graham Engeman and Steven Evans.

Ms Mason said the pair represented to her they were acting on behalf of GRR.

This was disputed by Ms Cochrane who said they did not have her permission and, had she known about the fraud allegations, the company would not have entered an agreement with Ms Mason.

Mr Callaghan rejected the company had been misled into making the agreement.

“I find that GRR was not induced into entering the agreement to terminate Ms Mason’s employment by any fraudulent misrepresentation on the part of Ms Mason, nor, because the alleged fraud has not been proven to my satisfaction, did it enter into the agreement under a mistaken belief that Ms Mason was being honest in its dealings with it.”

Gympie Times


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