Resignation letter raises concerns about relationship between NSW minister and developer

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Former NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler raised concerns in his resignation letter about the relationship between ousted fair trade minister Eleni Petinos and a major property developer who hired John Barilaro after he leave parliament.

A resignation letter sent by Chandler last month was published in parliament on Thursday.

It came a day after NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the letter, initially sent to the secretary of the Department of Customer Services, had been forwarded to the state’s anti-corruption watchdog.

The letter, which details the problems he had with Petinos, reveals that Chandler raised concerns about what he described as “the recommended relationship” between the minister and developer Coronation Property.

In the letter, Chandler says his concerns “crystallized” after he issued a stop-work order on a 790-apartment development in Merrylands owned by Coronation earlier this year.

Related: Resignation letter from NSW building commissioner sent to Icac, says Dominic Perrottet

The letter confirms that Chandler was contacted by both the Petinos office and Barilaro, who at the time had left politics, shortly after the order was issued.

“As I informed you, I received a call from the minister’s office shortly after a draft order was issued regarding the development of Coronation’s Merrylands,” he wrote.

“Shortly after that call, I received a message from John Barilaro who informed me that he had recently joined the Coronation board.

“This contact came to me as a message on my personal phone requesting a meeting with me… Later I met with Mr. Barilaro to answer his questions.”

On Monday, Barilaro told a parliamentary inquiry examining his post at a New York trading post that he had met with Chandler in April to discuss “the Coronation group, the work that Mr. Chandler was doing, the construction in general.

However, he said he had made it clear at the time that the meeting was not about the stop-work order.

Barilaro told Guardian Australia that Chandler’s letter “confirms what I said in the inquest on Monday, that I contacted the building commissioner for a meeting.”

Barilaro said he took his “responsibility as CEO” seriously and that the “stop-work order concerned me.”

But the meeting “was not in relation to the stop work order. And I made that clear when requesting the meeting,” he said.

“I also made it clear that if it was not appropriate for me to contact the commissioner directly, please do so,” Barilaro said.

“Mr. Chandler arranged the meeting through his EA approximately three weeks later. We never discussed the stop work order, nor did I request anything regarding the stop work order. Mr. Chandler could support my statement and my version of events.”

Earlier this week it was revealed in the newly released ministers’ diaries that Petinos held two meetings with Coronation in June this year. Barilaro attended one of those meetings.

Barilaro and Petinos described that as a “social” gathering that took place after the former deputy prime minister resigned from his role as CEO of Coronation to take up his post as New York’s senior trade commissioner for the government.

“I was no longer an employee of Coronation. I did not meet with the minister during my time at Coronation,” Barilaro said earlier this week.

Petinos said the June 21 meeting was only disclosed “out of an abundance of caution and was social in nature.”

Petinos was fired as Fair Trade Minister on July 31. It came just days after she was accused of running an unsafe office in media reports. Petinos has repeatedly denied all the accusations against him.

Perrottet told parliament on Thursday that while he had not read the letter at the time, he had discussed some of the issues with the department’s secretary, Emma Hogan, before deciding to fire Petinos.

Those issues, he said, were “not relevant at all” to his decision.

Shadow Labor Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Courtney Houssos said it was “incredibly important” to understand why Petinos was sacked.

In the letter, Chandler said his experience had been “one in which engagement with the minister’s office has been problematic.”

Related: The developer linked to John Barilaro met with then NSW minister Eleni Petinos weeks before the work ban was lifted.

“Other department officials have informed me of similar experience and significant pieces of previously examined legislation have now been seriously affected,” he said.

It comes after Barilaro told a parliamentary inquiry that he had not met any ministers regarding the coronation while his application for the job was being considered. The June 21 meeting took place the day after he began his contract for the now-abandoned trading post.

The former deputy prime minister will appear before the inquiry again on Friday.

Petinos has been contacted for comment.

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