A CONSULTANT to the planning department reprimanded for contact with the Labor lobbyist Graham Richardson was given his $667,000 job on the basis of a one-page letter from him to the planning boss, Sam Haddad, after the department failed to tender on it.Norman Johnston was awarded the job as general manager of Western Sydney Employment Area Lands without a tender because the job was expected to cost less than $30,000, the department said in answers to the McGurk parliamentary inquiry, for which hearings resume today. But Mr Johnston, a former Commerce Department executive, ended up being paid $667,000 for his work from January last year until this year.As part of his job he managed the controversial proposal by the developers Ron and Roy Medich to rezone land near Badgerys Creek, the subject of the parliamentary inquiry following the murder of Michael McGurk, a former Medich business associate.At the inquiry Mr Johnston has admitted to five contacts with Mr Richardson during the latter’s time lobbying for the project. Mr Haddad has said he told Mr Johnston to cease contact with Mr Richardson. Mr Johnston said Mr Richardson was the only lobbyist he met in his 1½ years with the department. He had first met him when he was general manager of the state’s property portfolio in about 2005, he said.Asked if there was a tender process for the western Sydney lands work, the department said: ”The department made the decision to engage Mr Johnston as the best-qualified specialist available to meet the [short] deadline. Advice was that a tender was not required under the procurement policy as the quantum for the initial phase of the project was not expected to exceed $30,000. It was intended that an open tender would follow.”The Herald has learnt from government sources that Mr Johnston was known for a pro-developer stance in his previous work with the Department of Commerce. At one point he was reprimanded there, government sources said, for hiring a PR agent with taxpayer funds to promote himself. Mr Johnston repaid the funds, the sources said.Mr Johnston, Mr Richardson and Mr Haddad, as well as the former planning minister Frank Sartor, are all expected to appear before the inquiry.Invoices referred to in the documents show Mr Richardson has earned $264,000 as a lobbyist to the Mediches since 2005.Documents given to the committee also show Mr Sartor and Mr Haddad met the Mediches on May 5 last year, the day before Mr Sartor cruelled an early rezoning. That meeting was not previously revealed in a planning department submission to the inquiry.The letter from Mr Johnston to Mr Haddad that earned him the lucrative work talks of his ”16 years [of] senior executive experience in the public sector at ministerial advisory level”.It says: ”If this role is still available, and if under discussion with the minister, I would like you to consider these [key performance indicators], which respectfully no private sector incumbent could have with a commercial background”.Mr Johnston did not return calls, and a department spokesman would not comment.In other documents given to the inquiry, Ron Medich said he did not ”make political donations in order to improve my chances of getting projects approved”.It has emerged that the Medich brothers donated more than $200,000 to the Labor Party after they employed Mr Richardson and began lobbying to have the Badgerys Creek land rezoned.”In my experience, the bureaucrats take the lead in relation to development decisions,” Ron Medich said. ”They are generally very good people and … the way forward is to co-operate with them and take notice of what they say.”
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