GLENN DUNCAN, the chief executive of Parramatta's major sponsor, Pirtek, last night welcomed the exit of the Eels' chief executive, Paul Osborne, from the club.
Parramatta issued a media release confirming Osborne's resignation, despite the fact a club investigation into alleged financial irregularities and harassment of staff involving the chief executive had found ''no probity issues arising with respect to staff, sponsorship and player contracts''.
The release said Osborne would leave the club ''at Christmas'', but he is tipped to finish up much sooner than that.
Duncan last month resigned from the Eels board and told the Herald at the time that ''the recent decisions of the board go against all my business principles''. Asked last night if Osborne should have resigned, Duncan replied: ''Absolutely.
''I think there is a code of conduct as far as being the CEO is concerned, and he has crossed that line of being professional. There are times when you have to put your hand up and accept responsibility. I remember a quote, I think it was from Wayne Bennett, that says 'if you allow it to happen, you are responsible.' ''
Osborne said in the release that ''obviously a working relationship between myself and the club's major naming rights sponsor, Pirtek, is no longer tenable, and this is a major factor in my decision''.
Also in the release, Osborne said: "I spoke with [Parramatta deputy chairman] Sid Kelly today and informed him of my decision''. But the Herald understands his resignation was arranged immediately before the Monday night board meeting at which the result of the investigation was tabled.
A severance package was negotiated and Osborne then agreed to tender his resignation, the Herald has been told.
Also in the release, Osborne said that ''whilst I remain pleased to have been cleared by the board's inquiry, I believe the time is right for me to move on'', and that "I gave it my all and made some tough calls over the last couple of seasons getting the club on track''.
The inquiry was carried out by Kelly, a racehorse owner and the proprietor of a flooring company, and another director, the restauranteur Mario Libertini.
Also involved in the inquiry was Bryan Belling, the club's lawyer, who is known to have given Osborne advice in relation to his dispute with the Bank of West Australia, which is threatening to foreclose on Osborne's problematic Byron Bay investment. The club report tabled on Monday noted that while a previous complaint against Osborne by a female staff member had been upheld, the board felt ''it was of insufficient grounds for any further action''. The Herald understands that matter was still in the process of being settled before Osborne's resignation.
Speaking to the Herald last night, Osborne said: ''I'd made my mind up a long time ago [to resign]. I wanted the report done, that's what I was holding out for. I had decided a couple of weeks ago, but the important thing for me was the report. I wanted that tabled.''
Asked whether he had repaid the Eels chairman, Roy Spagnolo, the money he had borrowed from him, Osborne replied: ''That's between Spagnolo and me.''
Duncan said that, based on his own experience as a Parramatta board member, he was ''very surprised'' by the result of the club's investigation. He also said Pirtek would continue to sponsor the team now that Osborne was going.
The club has been criticised for not appointing independent investigators, rather than board members. On that issue, Duncan said: ''It should have been independent. People with the right expertise should have been brought in to do it.''
Libertini last night defended the club's decision to appoint board members to do the investigation, saying that they had access to all of the relevant information.
Libertini said a decision on a new chief executive was yet to be made. Tony Zappia and Michael Buettner have been mentioned as possibilities for the position.