John Barilaro and Eleni Petinos relationship concerns raised in David Chandler’s resignation letter
The building commissioner also described the difference in his engagement with the minister’s office, since a cabinet reshuffle last year saw Petinos take over the portfolio from current hospitality minister Kevin Anderson.
“Alas, the same level of commitment has not been experienced since. My personal experience is one where engagement with the minister’s office has been problematic,” he wrote.
“Given the current status of all the above issues, I believe my continued role as NSW Building Commissioner is no longer viable.”
Chandler said other department officials have reported similar experiences, “and significant pieces of previously reviewed legislation have now encountered serious disruption.”
The NSW opposition used orders from the upper house to compel the government to publish the letter after it was revealed that Petinos had met representatives of a property development company which employed Barilaro.
Both Petinos and Barilaro released statements saying Barilaro was not present at a June 2 meeting between Petinos and Coronation Property. A second encounter with Coronation on June 21 was disclosed in his diary out of “an excess of caution,” Petinos said.
Barilaro said on Tuesday he was not working for the company on June 21, and the couple met to celebrate their new position as trade commissioner in the United States.
Chandler quit abruptly last month despite recently signing a contract extension. A 50-year industry veteran, he was tasked in 2019 with cleaning up NSW’s construction industry as the state’s first construction commissioner.
His sudden resignation sparked speculation about the circumstances of his departure amid scrutiny of the conduct of the recently jettisoned Petinos, to whom he reported.
Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet revealed during Question Time on Wednesday that Chandler’s letter of resignation had been sent to the Secretary of the Customer Service Department, who referred it to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on August 1 .
He said he only learned the letter was referred to the corruption watchdog late Tuesday evening.
Perrottet maintained that Petinos’ firing was unrelated to Chandler’s resignation.
When he stepped down, Chandler said in a statement that he felt the time was right for “a reset,” but remained firmly committed to working with the department until his term ends in November.
“I don’t want my resignation to distract people from what has been achieved so far and the work that remains to be done,” he said on July 27.
Opposition spokeswoman for better regulation and innovation, Courtney Houssos, said the prime minister needed to explain how he could have been told by Hogan about Petinos’ conduct and not know about the concerns Chandler raised in the resignation letter.
“It is extremely important that we understand why Minister Petinos was sacked in the first place by the prime minister,” Houssos said.
“We also need the prime minister to explain how he could be briefed by the secretary of the customer service department the night before minister Petinos was sacked about the very issues that were at the root of the sacking and the same person who sent the letter to the ICAC the following day did not convey these concerns.
Our latest news alert will be notify you important breaking news as it happens. Get it here.