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Renewal SA redundancy claim on former exec 'doesn't pass muster'

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A former public service high-flyer will face off against her former department next month in a bid to resolve a potential seven-figure compensation claim stemming from her sacking a day before she faced court in a case that ultimately collapsed.

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Georgina Vasilevski is seeking a lucrative payout from Renewal SA, where she was one of four senior executives at the time of her 2020 arrest after a lengthy ICAC investigation.

She had been placed on leave in late 2018, but it was another year-and-a-half before she was charged with allegedly wrongly claiming travel expenses totalling just $1032.

However the case against her – and the agency’s former CEO John Hanlon – collapsed in the Magistrates Court this year when prosecutors conceded they did not have sufficient evidence to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The DPP has since opted to pursue its case against Hanlon in the District Court, but will not lay further charges against Vasilevski.

The former Renewal SA General Manager, People and Place Management, was made redundant from the agency “on or around 2 June 2020”, its new CEO Chris Menz confirmed last year.

She has since launched a compensation claim, with correspondence between her legal team and former employer understood to have been exchanged in recent days.

Vasilevski’s lawyer Greg Griffin told InDaily his client has filed a pre-action notice, with the Crown Solicitor’s Office – on behalf of Renewal – given “an opportunity to attempt to resolve the matter without going to proceedings”.

“We’ll undoubtedly have a meeting some time in the new year, in January, to go through the next stage – to meet and attempt to resolve the dispute, without the necessity for litigation,” he said.

However, he confirmed a resolution appeared a way off for now.

“The Crown have responded as we expected they would,” he said.

“I don’t think our positions have moved… I don’t think the process to date has produced any surprises.”

Renewal SA has long maintained Vasilevski was axed following “a review of our strategic direction” with the agency “refocussing on pipeline and major projects, as well as refocussing and reprioritising project delivery and property management”.

It told InDaily last year it was “undergoing a restructure in order to align to and deliver on this new strategic direction”, which would involve “a range of redundancies”.

“This has included Ms Vasilevski who was made redundant on 2 June this year,” the agency said in July 2020.

Griffin said that remained “pretty much the claim” of the department – a position he said failed the pub test.

“She was an outstanding public servant, who was well-regarded and respected by both sides of government, and who was then made redundant the day before her first appearance in the Adelaide Magistrates Court,” he said.

“It just doesn’t pass muster.”

Vasilevski is understood to be pursuing a claim not based on damages but financial loss, based on being terminated with three years remaining on her contract, and a foregone earnings claim expected to total over $1 million.

Griffin declined to confirm a figure but said “it’s a significant claim, in terms of the amount”.

However he suggested a settlement could still be negotiated if the agency changed its position.

“You’d expect at that January meeting between Renewal SA and us that the parties would attempt to find some common financial ground, he said.

“If it happens, it happens – if it doesn’t, it doesn’t… if it doesn’t, proceedings are commenced, and if it does parties have an opportunity to resolve a dispute without going to court – which is always better.”

Vasilevski’s claim, he said, will be predicated on the fact “the DPP saw no utility in bringing further proceedings against Georgina”.

“That was an entirely proper decision,” he said.

“The position of Renewal SA is it’s a genuine redundancy… we strongly refute that.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the agency said: “Renewal SA declines to comment on this matter.”

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