ONE of Australia's most respected veterinarians, who oversaw Melbourne Cup winners and introduced new drug-testing methods, is suing Racing Victoria for almost $300,000, claiming damages and loss of income.
According to Supreme Court documents, Racing Victoria's former chief vet, Paul O'Callaghan, said his termination in January last year was in breach of his contract.
Instead of giving 18 months' notice, Racing Victoria gave him two months' pay after more than 13 years of service, O'Callaghan said.
The court documents do not reveal why his contract was terminated. He has been replaced by Brian Stewart, who took over the role before the spring carnival last year.
It is understood that before the appointment of Stewart, the position had been unfilled for some time.
Speculation was rife after O'Callaghan's departure that Racing Victoria considered not having a senior vet on staff.
"From May 2008 [O'Callaghan] held [Racing Victoria's] only employed professional veterinary position," the court documents said.
"At the time of the termination . . . [O'Callaghan] was of the highest standing with the equine veterinarian profession in Australia."
The statement of claim said O'Callaghan required 18 months' notice because he was unlikely to find new and commensurate employment before that time.
O'Callaghan was promoted to chief veterinary officer in May 2008, his responsibilities including clinical work at race meetings, running the quarantine centres at Sandown and Werribee, managing the national injury reporting system for jockeys and horses, and introducing new methods of drug detection.
His salary was $216,000 a year, including $26,262 superannuation and a $21,500 car allowance. The damages claim totals $297, 472. It is understood O'Callaghan is now working as a vet in New South Wales. A hearing is to be scheduled.