One of Gladys Berejiklian's former aides has told a corruption hearing the then premier had been untruthful by withholding key details about her relationship with Wagga MP Daryl Maguire in 2018.
Ms Berejiklian's former chief of staff, Sarah Cruickshank, appeared at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Tuesday and revealed she knew about the secret relationship more than two years before it was made public in October 2020.
Ms Cruickshank agreed Ms Berejiklian had "not been fully frank" with her in a phone call in 2018 at the time Mr Maguire resigned from the Liberal Party and Parliament in disgrace, as Ms Berejiklian told her the relationship was "over before I became premier".
ICAC Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl asked Ms Cruickshank if the information conveyed was that the relationship was "a thing of the past".
"That was my understanding," Ms Cruickshank replied.
AC McColl asked if there was "any other description for that than a lie?"
"No, there probably isn't," Ms Cruickshank said.
In October 2020, Ms Berejiklian told ICAC that her relationship with Mr Maguire continued until August of that year, when she cut all contact with him after hearing more details of corruption allegations against him.
"It was evident in August [that the relationship had ended], but the last conversation I had with him was on 13 September," Ms Berejiklian told ICAC in 2020.
ICAC is investigating allegations against Ms Berejiklian that she had a conflict of interest via $35.5 million of grants to Wagga institutions while she was in a close personal relationship with Mr Maguire.
Ms Berejiklian has denied any wrongdoing and, under a revised witness timetable, is now due to appear at ICAC on Friday and Monday.
Mr Maguire is due to appear on Thursday.
On Tuesday at ICAC, Ms Cruickshank said Ms Berejiklian called her after Mr Maguire appeared at ICAC on July 13, 2018.
That inquiry was played audio of intercepted phone calls of Mr Maguire with a Canterbury councillor attempting to arrange sales commissions for property developments in Sydney.
According to Ms Cruickshank, a "mutual friend" had then urged Ms Berejiklian to disclose the Maguire relationship to her chief of staff.
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"There's a chance somebody might have seen me with Daryl maybe having lunch, maybe having dinner; I just need to let you know as it's potentially newsworthy if an MP has been involved in a scandal then that person was a close friend of the premier," Ms Berejiklian said in the phone call, according to Ms Cruickshank.
Ms Berejiklian's solicitor at ICAC, Sophie Callan, challenged Ms Cruickshank on her recollection of the phone call, but she denied she got the wrong impression of when the relationship was supposed to have ended.
Ms Cruickshank said her concern about the relationship was "all about the optics" because she never saw Ms Berejiklian do anything wrong or ask favours for Mr Maguire or Wagga.
ICAC was also told Tuesday that Ms Berejiklian's staff searched for projects and funding to announce for the 2018 Wagga byelection triggered by Mr Maguire's resignation from Parliament.
Emails showed one of those announcements was Mr Maguire's "long standing wish list item" to grant $20 million to the Conservatorium of Music for a new recital hall complex in Simmons Street. The $20 million funding was cancelled this year.