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Former ForestrySA chief faces jail

Adrian Hatch

Adrian Hatch

A senior SA State Government bureaucrat who oversaw South Australia’s forestry is facing jail or thousands of dollars in fines after admitting to being dishonest in his job. Source: The Advertiser

Former ForestrySA chief executive officer Adrian Hatch, 57, was due to face a District Court trial after an investigation by the state’s anti-corruption investigator.

But The Advertiser can reveal Mr Hatch, of Point Lonsdale, 30km southeast of Geelong, in Victoria, last week pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on the eve of his trial. He is facing up to four years in jail, a maximum $15,000 fine or both.

The state’s first trial of an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption-led prosecution was vacated.

Appearing in the Mt Gambier court via a telephone hook-up from Geelong Central Court — after video-link equipment failed — Mr Hatch pleaded guilty to one basic count of dishonest performance of duties on July 30 2013 in the South-East city.

Under the Public Corporations Act, an employee of a public body “must at all times act honestly in the performance of his or her duties, whether within or outside the state”.

He was originally charged with five counts of abuse of public office between July 1, 2013 and New Year’s Eve that year, but prosecutors formally entered a nolle prosequi, meaning those charges were dropped.

While no case facts were aired in court, prosecutors have stated his crimes were committed “with the intention of securing a benefit for another person, namely Whiteheads Timber Sales Pty Ltd”, a family-owned sawmill.

Company records show its Mt Gambier-based directors are Darryl Jon Whitehead, 60, and Kenneth Andrew Whitehead, 55. Neither has been charged or publicly commented.

Mr Hatch was promoted on July 23 2013 after four years as ForestrySA’s commercial general manager. He held several senior positions within the forestry and timber processing industries across the world.

A government statement at the time lauded his “commercial skills”, adding: “His experience and capabilities will enable him to lead ForestrySA successfully in its future role.”

Lawyers for Mr Hatch, who has resigned, declined to comment as did a government spokeswoman.

Judge Sydney Tilmouth will hear sentencing submissions next month.