Craig Kelly adviser denies ‘kissing, hugging’ teen girls

 

Embattled political adviser Frank Zumbo has denied allegedly recruiting schoolgirls and "touching, kissing and hugging" female interns.

Three women who interned or were mentored at Hughes MP Craig Kelly's electoral office have now spoken out about allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards them by Kelly's senior staffer Zumbo, the ABC reports.

Former intern Anna Hobson was a 16 year-old Year 11 student when Mr Zumbo offered her an internship in Mr Kelly's office in 2018, where she worked for nine months.

Frank Zumbo twitter profile pic https://twitter.com/frank_zumbo/photo
Frank Zumbo twitter profile pic https://twitter.com/frank_zumbo/photo

She told ABC's 7:30 the office was full of young female interns directed by Mr Zumbo, and girls would allegedly have to hug and kiss him when entering or leaving the office.

""The whole office was basically run by the girls … often there were as many girls in school uniforms (as) there were people in office clothing," Ms Hobson said.

"Other than that, it was just Frank and Craig … you'd always have to hug (Frank) and give him a kiss on the cheek when you came and when you left."

Ms Hobson alleged Mr Zumbo was a "temperamental" boss who had "one-on-one personal conversations" with her in a conference room with the door shut and took her on private day trips.

She alleged he tried to buy her clothes several times in one trip, settling on buying her books before touching her leg when they were in a car alone together.

Frank Zumbo with the staffer who has made allegations of inappropriate behavior. Picture - Twitter
Frank Zumbo with the staffer who has made allegations of inappropriate behavior. Picture - Twitter

"There wasn't really any way to reject (the trips), I never had an option to say no," she said.

""When we were in the car, he put his hand on my leg while making a joke …. "It was the moment (when) I was very, very conscious of 'I'm alone in a car with a man, I know he can be temperamental … and he could drive me anywhere or do anything.'"

Zumbo's lawyer Michael Moussa denied all allegations, calling reports on Mr Zumbo's conduct "uncorroborated, untested and one sided".

"The allegations appear on the face of it to be fanciful, misleading or otherwise without merit," Mr Moussa said.

"NSW Police detectives from Sutherland have had ample time to consider their position, 11 months to date, but no charges have been laid."

Former Greens candidate Phillipa Clark was 18 and running for the 2014 state election when she said Zumbo offered to mentor her.

Craig Kelly’s office manager Frank Zumbo (right) leaving Sutherland Local Court on an AVO. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Craig Kelly’s office manager Frank Zumbo (right) leaving Sutherland Local Court on an AVO. Picture: Dylan Robinson

She told 7:30 Zumbo made her "uncomfortable" and allegedly insisted she kiss him on the cheek at each meeting.

"I was a bit suspicious … obviously he was a right-wing Liberal staff member," Ms Clark said.

"He'd want to hug me and on one occasion when we were driving home, he reached over and put his hand on my thigh and gave it a shake, and I said to him, 'Why did you just put your hand on my leg? That feels kind of weird and creepy.'"

High school student Amanda Bucknall said she was 16 when Zumbo approached her after a community event in 2019, offering her an internship before he allegedly linked up with her on social media and began commenting and reacting to photos she posted online.

"Anything I would post on my social media, he would reply with the emoji with love heart eyes which I thought was weird, but I just brushed it off," she told 7:30.

"A couple of weeks after that he called me and he said, 'I saw a photo of you at your formal - you looked absolutely beautiful" … I felt like I was going to end up in a situation where I'm being groomed … and I was just quite uncomfortable with his actions."

The 7:30 report also alleged Sutherland Shire councillors and the president of the Young Liberals Miranda Cook branch all voiced concerns about Zumbo's treatment of young women in the office.

It comes as Mr Zumbo has been under investigation by NSW Police since April 2020 following alleged conduct towards another intern, who has an AVO out against him.

7:30 reports six other women have also lodged statements with NSW Police who confirmed they are still investigating but wouldn't comment further. No charges have been laid.

Zumbo remains an employee of Mr Kelly, who has so far denied knowledge of the allegations until News Corp's St George Shire Standard reported on the AVO matter last year.

Originally published as Craig Kelly adviser denies 'kissing, hugging' teen girls


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