Guide Dogs CEO "donated over $500k", says fundraising boss

Ousted Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Karen Hayes “donated over $500,000” to the charity over the past three years which represented her “donating a significant portion of her wages back”, its boss of capital fundraising has said.

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Ousted Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Karen Hayes “donated over $500,000” to the charity over the past three years which represented her “donating a significant portion of her wages back”, its boss of capital fundraising has said.

Guide Dogs Victoria Capital Campaign Chair Paul Wheelton said Hayes had been unfairly maligned by recent media reports, including questions regarding the size of her salary - which the charity’s board is still refusing to disclose.

Wheelton said a recent Channel 7 News report, which cited an expose by The Klaxon, had failed to report the “over $500,000” in donations that Hayes had allegedly made to her employer.

“There was no mention of the fact that Karen had donated over $500,000 to the guide dogs over the previous three years,” Wheelton told The Klaxon.

“This was in fact her donating a significant part of her wages back.”

““This was in fact (Hayes) donating a significant part of her wages back””
— Paul Wheelton, Capital Campaign Chair

It is the first time the claims have been made.

They appear to support Hayes having received a very high salary in the role - something Wheelton contests.

Over three years, $500,000 would average $167,000 a year.

Wheelton told The Klaxon Hayes had donated $300,000 at a fundraising event held at “Pt. Leo Estate”, a winery and sculpture park at Point Leo on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula owned by billionaires the Gandel family.

Part Three of The Klaxon’s investigation into Guide Dogs Victoria. Source: The Klaxon

He said Hayes had donated a further $50,000 to Guide Dogs Victoria at a fundraiser in March this year.

“In relation to Karen’s donations to the Capital Campaign, I held a fundraiser for the project at John and Pauline Gandel’s Point Leo Estate,” Wheelton said in a written statement to The Klaxon.

“Karen donated $300k at that event. I donated $500k at that event.

“At a function held this March at Dutton’s for the final campaign Karen donated $50k and I matched that $50k,” Wheelton said.

(The reference to Dutton’s is unclear, although there is a Melbourne luxury car group of that name).

The Klaxon has been unable to obtain any documentary evidence supporting the claim that Hayes has donated over $500,000 to the charity.

““The Klaxon has been unable to obtain documentary evidence regarding Hayes having donated over $500,000 to the charity””

Hayes and the board of Guide Dogs Victoria have repeatedly refused to respond to questions.

The Klaxon was also unable to ascertain further details about the two fundraisers.

(The charity’s website does not mention them.)

“I have approached many HNI’s (high net-worth individuals) and trusts and foundations about donating in my role as Campaign Chair,” Mr Wheelton has told The Klaxon.

Wheelton is a Melbourne businessman who owns one of the nation’s biggest Budget Rent-a-Car franchises.

He was appointed Capital Campaign Chair of Guide Dogs Victoria in March 2017, and is responsible for raising the funds for a  $30m-odd “campus redevelopment” at the headquarters in Melbourne’s Kew.

As revealed by The Klaxon Monday, after that appointment, Wheelton made over $87,000 in “donations” to the Liberal Party, before the Federal Coalition Government gave millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to the charity.

Of that, $2.5m was specifically for the “campus redevelopment” campaign.

Wheelton has strongly denied any wrongdoing. (Continues below)

Hayes was forced to resign as after it emerged in April she had appeared in advertisements spruiking then Federal Treasurer Frydenberg for re-election.

It is illegal for charities to advocate politicians or political parties.

Both Hayes and the Guide Dogs Victoria board have repeatedly refused to respond to questions from The Klaxon.

Some of the claims the Melbourne businessman has made to The Klaxon appear to be contradictory.

Wheelton told us Hayes had “donated over $500,000”, donating a “significant part of her wages back” over the past three years.

John and Pauline Gandel. Source: Supplied

We sought further clarification, asking: “over which three years did Karen Hayes make the donations and were they precisely $500,000 (or if not what was the precise total)?”

Wheelton responded:

“Don’t know”.

As Capital Campaign Chair of Guide Dogs Victoria Wheelton is responsible for overseeing all fundraising relating to the “campus redevelopment”.

The project, named “The Future is in Sight”, will cost “over $28 million”, the charity says.

The Klaxon asked Wheelton: “Did Karen Hayes donate to the redevelopment specifically, or to Guide Dogs Victoria generally, or to a combination of the two?”

Wheelton responded: “Both”.

In a follow-up query we asked Wheelton how we could “confirm that Ms Hayes donated $500,000 to Guide Dogs Victoria over the past three years?”

Wheelton responded citing the two fundraising events mentioned above.

“Anyone at those events could verify those figures,” he wrote.

“I have been told over the years that Karen donated a major portion of her wages back to GDV.”

“Pt Leo Estate”, where Karen Hayes allegedly donated $300,000 to her employer. Source: Pt Leo Estate

Secret Salary

As previously revealed, Guide Dogs Victoria has received millions of dollars in government grants and other taxpayer funding in recent years despite substantially deteriorating performance.

Even before accounting for the millions of dollars in grants for the “campus redevelopment”, government funding to Guide Dogs Victoria for its continuing operations alone has surged four-fold - from $1m in 2010-11 to $3.9m last financial year.

In 2020-21 it delivered just 35 guide dogs, the same number as a decade earlier.

The total number of hours of “client services” it delivers each year - which includes both its guide dog and “non-dog related” activities - has slumped by over 25 per cent over the past ten years.

The number of clients it is servicing has fell by 24 per cent over the same period.

Last year the charity received a record revenue of $22.8m, of which it spent $1.99m on dogs.

Guide Dogs Victoria’s total salaries bill surged 40 per cent over the past decade, from $6.37m to $9.44m.

Taxpayers being slugged four times more than ten years ago - while total services have slumped over 25%. The charity supplied just 35 guide dogs last year. Source: Guide Dogs Victoria. Graphics: The Klaxon. Advertisement: Josh Frydenberg

Hayes, who was appointed Guide Dogs Victoria in November 2011, was paid a salary of $298,000 in 2013-14, according the to charity’s audited accounts for that financial year.

Her salary in the years since remains a mystery.

The board of Guide Dogs Victoria has refused to respond to questions from The Klaxon seeking the information for over a month.

Its 2013-14 accounts state the salary for “the person” responsible for the activities of Guide Dogs Victoria that year was $298,678, with the figure listed as that year’s total remuneration to “key management personnel”.

The accounts in subsequent years state that “key management personnel” figure relates to “any person(s)” responsible for the activities of Guide Dogs Victoria.

Pay to “key management personnel” in FY14 (top) and FY21 (bottom). Source: Guide Dogs Victoria

As reported in part one of this investigation, this “introduces the possibility that those ‘key management personnel’ payments could include people other than Hayes”.

Two weeks ago the charity provided a statement to ABC and Channel 7 stating: “the figure being quoted as the CEO’s salary…is not the remuneration of a single Corporate Officer”.

7 News reports on The Klaxon’s Guide Dogs Victoria expose. Source: 7 News

In providing his first set of responses to The Klaxon last Friday, Wheelton wrote:

“Having seen the hatchet job on Karen Hayes on Chanel 7 two weeks ago I must say I am reluctant to provide information that may be misreported as was with the story on Karen Hayes’ salary”.

Hayes had donated over $500,000 from her Guide Dogs salary over three years, he wrote.

We asked what Haye’s total remuneration had been in 2020-21.

Wheelton did not disclose a figure.

He wrote: “Nowhere near $500k. She donated a large part of her salary ++ to GDV. The figure in the accounts had 2 others included.”

It is the first time a figure has been put on the number of other executives allegedly concluded in last year’s $535,000  “key remuneration personnel” figure.

The “key management personnel” remuneration figure increases relatively incrementally almost every year between 2014 ($299,000) and 2021 ($553,000).

(There is a dip, between FY19 and FY20, from $567,000 to $505,000. This could indicate bonuses were being paid and that they were lower in FY20, although with the charity refusing to comment it is not possible to know).

The amount paid to key executives of the charity has more than doubled. Source: Guide Dogs Victoria. Graphic: The Klaxon

The 2013-14 audited accounts say the $298,678 was made to one person.

Guide Dogs Victoria’s board is responsible for correcting any incorrect statements in its accounts.

It has issued no correction regarding Hayes’ reported 2013-14 salary of $298,678.

Those accounts were signed off by auditor Scott Phillips, partner of accountancy Moore Stephens.

Guide Dogs Victoria’s website states its “executive leadership team” consists of nine people.

In the unlikely scenario Hayes received no pay increases between 2013-14 (when her reported salary was $299,,000) and 2020-21, and there “key management personnel” remuneration included two other executives, their total remuneration would have averaged $127,500.

According to information filed with the ACNC, Guide Dogs Victoria had 115 “full time equivalent” employees last year who collectively paid $9.44m, an average of $82,000 each.

Guide Dogs Victoria Capital Campaign Chair Paul Edwards calls for donors. Source: Guide Dogs Victoria


 As revealed Monday, Wheelton donated $87,617 to the Liberal Party between October 2017 - five months after he became Capital Campaign Chair at Guide Dogs Victoria - and June 2019.

In April 2020 the Coalition announced $2.5m grant for the charity’s “campus redevelopment”.

That followed a major grant in June 2018 (the value was not disclosed).

Wheelton said, in making the payments, he had not sought to facilitate grants or other funding for Guide Dogs Victoria from the Federal Government.

“I have had no dealings with any Federal person or body,” he said.

“This was all in place with the CEO (Hayes) who had the relationship.

“My dealings were with the (Victorian) Premier Daniel Andrews regarding the State funding part of the redevelopment,” Wheelton said.

On September 14, 2018, the Andrews Government committed $5m to Guide Dogs Victoria’s campus redevelopment.

Wheelton said he had earlier been “informed by the CEO that the Feds would match any donation from the State Government”.

Guide Dogs Australia Capital Campaign Chair Paul Wheelton. Source: Supplied

The Federal Government subsequently matched that $5m grant, he said.

“I have never spoken to any politician or political party in relation to any grants  about GDV or any of the other many charities I support,” Wheelton wrote to The Klaxon.

We responded asking if he had meant any “federal politician”, given his earlier comments regarding Daniel Andrews.

We wrote: “If so, is it your position that you have never spoken to any Federal politician or political party "in relation to any grants about GDV or any of the other many charities I support”?

Wheelton responded:

“I mean Federal Politician. I did speak with Premier Andrews regarding State matching. The relationship with the Feds was a GDV/Karen Hayes relationship.”

Wheelton continued:

“In my roles at Life Education, I have spoken with all levels of politics in relation to the funding of Life Eduction.

“I was chair of Life Education for over a decade and again working with all levels and with oppositions is a must-do.”

Wheelton is also a director of Melbourne’s Box Hill Hawks football club.

“I have spoken with Federal and State politicians in relation to the redevelopment of the Box Hill City Oval,” Wheelton wrote.

“Both sides have supported funding at the last Fed election and we have confirmed both parties will support the project going into the State Election”.

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Editor The Klaxon


Editor, Anthony Klan

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