Charges against former Renewal SA boss John Hanlon and executive Georgina Vasilevski collapsed in the Magistrates Court last week after the prosecution conceded it couldn’t prove its case against them.
They had been stood down in 2018 and later sacked, before being charged with allegedly wrongly claiming travel expenses, in Vasilevski’s case totalling just $1032.
But the matter is set to come under further scrutiny, with both former high-flying bureaucrats being invited to appear before a parliamentary select committee into the office of the state’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption as early as next month.
It comes as momentum builds for a separate, dedicated inquiry into the ICAC’s investigation into their case, with Labor frontbencher Tom Koutsantonis last night giving notice to parliament that he will seek to establish a select committee into “the processes that led to the Office of Public Integrity recommending a referral to the ICAC Commissioner for investigation of Hanlon and Vasilevski”.
If passed, the inquiry would “investigate the processes of the ICAC Commissioner, ICAC investigators and the ICAC investigation that led to the attempted prosecution of Hanlon and Vasilevski”, Koutsantonis told parliament.
It would make recommendations as to whether any “costs and compensation should be awarded” to the former bureaucrats and “refer any corruption, maladministration or misconduct by any Public Officer involved in any part of the ICAC investigation of Hanlon and Vasilevski to the South Australian Police Anti-Corruption Branch”.
It could also make recommendations “on any changes to ICAC procedures regarding investigations and prosecutions” and any legislative changes required “as a result of the Hanlon and Vasilevski ICAC investigation”.
The Labor motion would pass if backed by all five of state parliament’s crossbenchers – two of whom are currently facing unrelated court action brought about by ICAC investigations.
It’s unclear how those two MPs, Troy Bell and Fraser Ellis, will vote.
Independent Frances Bedford has indicated she will support the motion, while exiled Liberal Sam Duluk told InDaily: “This is an important matter for the parliament to consider and I will be seeking further information in relation to the Committee before I cast my vote on this matter.”
However, a number of Liberal MPs are considering crossing the floor to back the inquiry even if the Government seeks to block it.
Hammond MP Adrian Pederick told InDaily he had “the right to reserve my position [in the party-room] if I think that’s appropriate”.
“We do have some freedom in how we deal with it… I’ll be taking some interest in the matter, let me say that,” he said.
Mackillop MP Nick McBride said he was “considering” whether to reserve his right to cross the floor, but “I can’t say that I will or won’t”.
“I’m very concerned that ICAC … has potential to destroy lives without any accountability,” he said.
It comes as parliament yesterday heard shocking new allegations about the case, with SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo – who chairs the existing ICAC committee – telling the Legislative Council of an alleged encounter between a Renewal SA staff member and her partner with Vasilevski’s son.
Pangallo said the pair entered Damien Vasilevski’s recently-opened restaurant in August 2019 – more than six months before the two bureaucrats were charged – “with the intention of causing harm and distress”.
“At the time of this incident, Ms Vasilevski had been forced to stand down as General Manager, People and Place Management, at Renewal SA as a result of a vexatious allegation against her,” Pangallo told parliament.
“Whilst in the restaurant, the person’s male partner allegedly told Ms Vasilevski’s son that ICAC was going to rape her and that when that was completed he would ‘finish her off’.
“At that stage, she had not been charged.”
He told parliament the threat caused Vasilevski to “fear for her safety and the safety of her family”.
“Although statements were provided by Ms Vasilevski’s son and by Ms Vasilevski, nothing was done to protect or assist her in dealing with these issues,” he said.
InDaily has seen a trail of emails between current and former Renewal SA staff discussing Damien Vasilevski’s cafe, which was featured in InDaily in early 2018.
“I want to find his social media pages and give it a bad review over and over and over,” one staff member said.
“And where does a 19-year-old get the money for this if mummy and daddy don’t know… little shit,” said another.
Another comment reads: “This little apple didn’t fall far from the tree at all, what a… self-important little wanker – shit reviews coming his way.”
Pangallo told InDaily he would invite both Vasilevski and Hanlon to appear before his ICAC committee next month.
“We need to know more about this matter and how it was conducted, particularly when taxpayer dollars are seemingly wasted,” he said.
Koutsantonis said parliament had to “find out what happened and how we got to this point”.
His proposed inquiry also proposes to “investigate the role of the Office and Department of Attorney General in the Hanlon and Vasilevski ICAC investigation and prosecution”.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman’s office said the move was a “political stunt by Mr Koutsantonis which would achieve nothing”.
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