A former Darwin Turf Club board member who supported awarding $12 million of taxpayer funds for the grandstand to former chair Brett Dixon’s company despite claiming it didn’t “pass the pub test” and would result in a corruption investigation, has been issued an apology by the ICAC after it was revealed she was secretly recorded by an investigator.
Anya Lorimer – who runs local Labor-aligned ad firm Campaign Edge Sprout – was secretly recorded by an ICAC investigator in September 2020 while meeting at a cafe for a “chat” about the grandstand.
The matter was raised with current commissioner Michael Riches on January 19, as part of disclosures relating to an upcoming judicial review proceeding, Mr Riches said.
He said he apologised to Ms Lorimer and informed his staff that “such conduct is not to occur”.
“In the Northern Territory it is not illegal to record a conversation to which you are a party, even if other parties to the conversation are not aware of the recording,” Mr Riches said in a statement.
“But, in my view, that is not the issue.
“In my opinion the meeting should not have been recorded without the witness’s knowledge. I am surprised and disappointed that it occurred. I am advised that the decision to record the conversation was suggested, and approved, by persons who are no longer employed in my office.
“Because the matter will be reviewed by the Inspector and relates to a matter currently the subject of judicial proceedings, I will not comment further.”
Ms Lorimer told the NT News she was not under investigation by the ICAC for her role in the awarding of the $12 million grandstand tender and that finding out she had been recorded “undermined my trust”, adding that she felt it was “unethical”.
Records of a Turf Club board meeting on August 28, 2019, showed Ms Lorimer told the board that awarding the $12 million contract to Jaytex did not pass “the pub test” and would result in an ICAC investigation, but then inexplicably supported awarding the contract to Jaytex, in favour of other local companies who had bid on the project.
The ICAC’s investigation found the Turf Club board breached the public trust in its handling of the grandstand project that cost taxpayers $12 million.
Ms Lorimer was forced to resign from the board by Chief Minister Michael Gunner last year, who accused the entire board of “improper conduct” in awarding the contract to Mr Dixon’s company.
She was then appointed chair of the Activate Darwin board – a group run through the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet that awards government grants for Darwin CBD promotional activities – a group that had previously paid her company for work.
Ms Lorimer did not respond to requests for comment.