Tasmania’s Lennon Labor Government has long copped flak for the huge amounts of money it forks out to get rid of thorns in its hide. Now Crikey hears the latest thorn — TOTE Tasmania chief executive officer Terry Clarke — stands to receive a whopping $600,000 payout.

Clarke was dumped from the Board at the December 14 AGM for TOTE, Tasmania’s racing regulatory body. He has been on sick leave as CEO since then, and his deputy, Craig Coleman, was appointed acting CEO. Coleman is a Board favourite — he did a course at the Harvard Business School last year, reportedly costing $60,000, part of which was paid by TOTE.

Clarke has two years of his contract to run. His package is around $300,000 a year — salary, super, car and other benefits — and he wants his contract paid out. We tried to contact him this morning, but with no luck.

The official term is “payment in lieu of unexpired period of contract” and the Lennon Government knows all about it.

Back in 2005, the Lennon Government paid then Governor Richard Butler $650,000 in an unprecedented move to get rid of a governor.

Last month, the Premier approved an ex gratia payment of $140,000 to Julian Green, head of the Resource, Planning and Development Commission. Green quit the key job of assessing the controversial $1.4 billion pulp mill proposed by Gunns for the Tamar estuary near Launceston, citing political interference by the Government appointed Pulp Mill Taskforce.

There have been plenty of other payouts, including $90,000 to Royal Hobart Hospital boss Ted Rayment who was forced to move to a custom-made job in the Department of Health and Human Services in 2005. He has since left the state.

Clarke appears to be the scapegoat for a blow-out in costs at Tattersall’s Park, the redevelopment of the Elwick racetrack and Brighton training facility, and the controversial co-location at Elwick of racing, pacing and dogs. The cost has escalated from $6 million to $30 million and is still climbing..

Shadow Attorney-General Michael Hodgman — a keen racegoer — blasted the Government over the blow-out in Parliament last year.

In November, Greens’ racing spokesman MHA Kim Booth asked in Parliament whether auditors had been called in to investigate TOTE books. In a media release afterwards, he said: “It is very telling that Minister Cox refused to rule out when asked today, whether Mr Clarke’s future at TOTE is on the line, and also refused to rule out whether auditors have concerns over certain expenditures of TOTE money.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey