The Brett Dixon Consortium suddenly withdraws Hidden Valley Tavern’s liquor license application; potential conflict with the Liquor Commission raised
A consortium of local businessmen backing Brett Dixon suddenly withdrew his request to transfer Hidden Valley Tavern’s liquor license at the last minute, just a day before he was due to be heard by the NT Liquor Commission, while that issues of potential conflicts of interest related to the commission were also noted.
Neither Mr. Dixon nor his consortium offered an explanation, but the withdrawal of the candidacy is a surprise decision after Mr. Dixon called the Northwest Territories News last month to inform the newspaper that he was buying the tavern and investing $1.5 million to improve its overall ambience.
It is unclear whether the sale will now go as Mr Dixon had planned.
According to the Liquor Commission website, the hearing to determine whether the existing license at the premises should be transferred to Mr Dixon’s consortium was scheduled for 10am this morning, but was canceled yesterday after the application was withdrawn .
the NT Independent may reveal that one of the commission’s arbitrators was also involved in the ICAC’s investigation into the awarding of the Turf Club grandstand project to Mr Dixon’s company.
Mr. Dixon and his attorney did not respond to questions yesterday.
Last June, an investigation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption into the taxpayer-funded, taxpayer-funded Darwin Turf Club grandstand project, awarded to Mr Dixon’s company, Jaytex Constructions, found that Mr Dixon s was engaged in “corrupt conduct”.
He is currently trying to overturn those findings in the Supreme Court.
However, the NT Independent understands that Liquor Commission Vice Chair Jodi Truman, a local attorney, was hired by the ICAC Board during its investigation of the Turf Club grandstand project.
Ms Truman was listed in the Liquor Commission papers as the panel of three hearing the planned application to determine whether Mr Dixon would receive the liquor license transfer.
Former ICAC Ken Fleming had suggested in his Tribune report that Mr Dixon, who was also Chairman of the Turf Club at the time of the Tribune draft, be referred to the DPP for ‘review of criminal charges’ and also referred to the Commissioner Police officer Jamie Chalker is to be considered a “disqualified person” under the NT Associations Act. However, it seems that none of these suggestions were followed up.
Ms Truman is married to Jason Finlay, a Department of Business ‘project manager’ who was the Government of the Northwest Territories representative on the Turf Club selection committee that ultimately selected Jaytex as the successful bidder for the project publicly funded $12 million.
the NT Independent previously reported that of the five panel members, Mr. Finlay was the only member to tie Jaytex and Sunbuild as preferred builders. He and his boss, Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade chief executive Shaun Drabsch, had repeatedly refused to answer questions about how that score was achieved.
The Liquor Commission and Chairman Richard Coates did not respond to questions about Ms Truman’s potential conflict of interest or whether she had declared one.
Dixon said he and his ‘friends’ were ‘excited’ to buy a pub last month
Mr. Dixon had told the Northwest Territories News last month that he had big plans for the Hidden Valley Tavern, located across from his Berrimah business park.
“Me and a bunch of buddies got together and thought we’d have a chance,” he said at the time.
“My aim is to spend some real money on it. We are going to upgrade and renovate the interior to a level which I think will be quite exciting for families and groups of people who want a good quality night out.
He added that “all the guys are local and good friends”, that he was excited about the company and that “we all like to do things right and do them well and you can guarantee that when the upgrade is complete , it will be comparable to any high quality venue anywhere”.
These “friends” include local businessmen Jeremy O’Donoghue, Jamie Cooper and former Turf Club lawyer and board member Andrew Giles.
Mr Giles also declined to comment yesterday when asked why the license application was withdrawn before the hearing.
He currently owns Trader Bar and quit the Turf Club board following the ICAC investigation into how he awarded the $12 million grandstand contract to M’s company. Dixon, concluding that the board as a whole “breached the public trust.”
Jaytex was recently secretly awarded a multi-million dollar contract by Darwin City Council to upgrade the Bagot Park velodrome, despite cycling clubs telling the council they see no future for the installation at this location.
Acting Council CEO Simone Saunders and Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis declined to answer questions about the deal and why the tender and its value were not made public until beginning of work on the site or why work began before the finalization of a master plan for the enlarged Bagot Park area. .
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