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Renewal SA boss not renewed

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The Marshall Government has finally parted ways with Renewal SA chief executive John Hanlon, ten months after he went on leave without public explanation.

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At a budget estimates hearing this morning, Planning Minister Stephan Knoll told parliament Hanlon’s “term of employment as chief executive of Renewal SA expired on 20 July 2019 and was not renewed”.

Mark Devine, who has acted as the urban development agency’s interim boss since October, will continue to act in the role until a permanent appointment is made, Knoll said.

Hanlon and Georgina Vasilevski, Renewal SA’s general manager of People & Place Management, went on a sudden leave of absence in September last year, but remain listed on the agency’s four-person executive team on Renewal SA’s website.

The executive team listed on the agency’s website this morning.

Knoll’s revelation today sparked an interrogation from Opposition frontbencher Tom Koutsantonis, with the minister refusing to confirm whether Hanlon, who was on a reported $395,000 annual salary, had been on full pay during his 10-month absence.

“Mr Hanlon was on leave… the term of his contract expired on 20 July and we are going to comply with all of the provisions in his contract,” Knoll responded.

“The contract as it stands expired and all those terms and conditions we will uphold.”

“That is not the question I asked you, minister,” Koutsantonis replied.

“What I asked you was: was he on leave with pay?”

To which the minister repeated: “I can only confirm that he was on leave.”

Koutsantonis later returned to the subject, telling parliament that “while we were here in estimates, my office has received three phone calls from people purporting to be employees of Renewal SA, to tell my office that Mr Hanlon was on full pay while on leave”, and asking the minister to confirm.

“I refer the member to my previous answers,” Knoll responded.

He also referred the Opposition to his earlier statement when asked if he sought advice on his ability to terminate Hanlon’s contract.

Asked “Did you ever consider terminating his contract?”, Knoll replied: “Well, we did not renew his contract.”

At one point, Koutsantonis asked whether there was “anything that prohibits [the minister] from telling the parliament whether [Hanlon] was being paid or not, or are you just worried about being embarrassed?”

“I can only confirm that he was on leave,” Knoll said.

Hanlon and Vasilevski at the Old Royal Adelaide Hospital site with Premier Steven Marshall in May last year. Photo: Kelly Barnes / AAP

The drawn out exchange was reminiscent of the equivalent estimates hearing last September, when Knoll repeatedly stonewalled questions about the chief executive’s absence by saying: “Mr Hanlon is on leave.”

That hearing prompted Attorney-General Vickie Chapman to release a public statement saying she had “enquired of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Mr Bruce Lander QC, as to whether there is any further information that can be made available on this matter”.

“He confirmed that there is not [and he] will not be making a public statement on the matter,” she said at the time.

Lander later issued his own statement, which authorised media to publish Chapman’s comments.

The episode led to a police investigation into whether Chapman’s statement had breached the ICAC Act, with SAPOL commissioner Grant Stevens eventually declaring no further action would be taken after receiving advice from former Supreme Court judge Michael David, QC.

Hanlon’s official departure from Renewal SA formalises a changing of the guard at the troubled agency, with a separate board shakeup this month seeing the impending departure of Labor-appointed chair Bronwyn Pike, along with ALP veteran Terry Groom, former Adelaide Airport boss Phil Baker and property consultant David McArdle.

Pike will be replaced as chair by high-profile corporate advisor Con Tragakis, with Anne Skipper, Phil Rundle and Kimberley Gillan joining the board from this week.

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