Prominent Kiwi real estate agent Murray Bright charged with misconduct for hugging woman, kissing her on cheek at home viewing

The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found agent Murray Alfred Bright to have "recklessly" overstepped his professional boundary.
The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found agent Murray Alfred Bright to have "recklessly" overstepped his professional boundary. Photo credit: Supplied

A prominent real estate agent has been charged with misconduct after he hugged a client and kissed her on the cheek, despite part of the woman's allegations being found to be fabricated.

The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found agent Murray Alfred Bright to have "recklessly" overstepped his professional boundary when the incident occurred in the bedroom of a property for sale in rural Northland. 

Bright, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry, was the number one salesperson for several Western Australian real estate companies and has been runner-up for top salesperson for Harcourts Australia.

With the amount of experience under his belt, the tribunal said Bright would have known at the time his actions were inappropriate in the circumstances and while it was a "momentary lapse" it was a serious one.

According to the recently released decision, Bright and the woman, whose identity has been kept anonymous, met in July 2019 at Harcourts Coopers Beach office to arrange a viewing of two properties.

The following day, the complainant met Bright at the office and he drove her to see the properties.

On the journey to the second property, a rural home on the Karikari Peninsula, the complainant said she felt uncomfortable after Bright remarked on her bubbly personality and infectious smile.

When the pair arrived at the property the woman said he asked her "what would you do if I drove off and left you here by yourself?" - Which put her on edge, the decision said.

Before entering the house the woman said Bright grabbed her shoulders with force and told her not to come through while he went to open the curtains.

Bright denied making the remarks and touching her shoulder.

The woman then accused Bright of grabbing her in a "bear hug" and kissing her very quickly on the lips.

"The complainant describes it as Mr Bright swooping in and kissing her in one action. She pulled back from him but he pulled her back in and kissed her again. He did this again, kissing her at least four times in total. She had to physically push him away, giving him a great big push," the decision said.

She said she was stunned and felt "highly disturbed and very vulnerable" and continued as if nothing had happened.

According to Bright's account, the pair were sitting on opposite sides of the bed since there was no chair and the woman started telling him of the hard time she had over the last few years and was looking to make a fresh start.

He said her eyes started to well so he asked her if she would like a hug.

Bright said the woman leaned towards him and opened her arms out to initiate the hug. During the hug, Bright said he gave her a short peck on the cheek but when they both pulled back their lips accidentally brushed.

"Nothing was said and both of them felt a little uneasy and embarrassed," the decision said.

The following day the woman made a verbal complaint to the real estate office and over a week later she complained to Harcourts and the authority.

The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found the complainant's story was "fabricated", while Bright's narrative remained "consistent and plausible". 

The decision said if Bright made remarks that made her uncomfortable the complaint would not have shared very personal information with him while she viewed the property.

It also said the incident in the bedroom is not plausible. 

"The complainant is a mature woman of some confidence and despite the disparity in size and being taken by surprise the first time, she would not have meekly allowed herself to be repeatedly drawn in for hugs and kisses. Even if she could not have broken free, she could have just put her face down in such a way that Mr Bright could not kiss her on the lips." 

While the authority did not accept the incident unfolded in the way the complainant described, it wasn't the end of the case against him.

The authority found Bright had overstepped his professional boundaries when he gave the consensual hug coupled with a peck on the cheek which gave rise to the accidental lips brushing and charged him with misconduct.

"While not disgraceful, there was a reckless indifference to the rules."