The ousted boss of Judith Neilson’s embattled journalism institute has obtained legal advice about suing the organisation over his dismissal as executive director.
Mark Ryan, a former adviser to Paul Keating and long-time adviser to the Lowy family, led the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas since its inception, and was working with lawyers to negotiate his exit after Neilson requested his removal.
In an email sent to JNI’s international advisory council early last week, seen by this masthead, Ryan says he still has not been provided with reasons for his removal.
“It’s been a very disappointing episode to say the least, made more so by the fact that no coherent rationale has been provided for what was a totally unnecessary disruption to the Institute and its hard-working staff,” Ryan said in an email last Tuesday.
“I’m advised by Australia’s pre-eminent employment law firm Clayton Utz that I have strong grounds to pursue an adverse action claim and am reserving my rights in that regard.”
Ryan did not respond to requests for comment for this article. His exit came more than two months after the Institute’s four independent directors received a letter from Neilson outlining plans to remove him from his position, and appoint her daughter Beau Neilson and lawyer Daniel Appleby as directors.
The letter, which Neilson conceded may have surprised the board, backpedalled on long-term plans for a coveted international prize for ideas, which was about to be announced and was initially her idea.
It led to the departure of its independent directors – former NSW Justice Jim Spigelman, Free TV chief executive Bridget Fair, former Victoria State Library CEO and current boss of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation Kate Torney, and The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly – who were concerned about the independence of the organisation.
For their part, sources close to the institute said staff members have clarity on Neilson’s new vision and have not raised issues internally.
Two international advisers, high-profile former US journalist Steve Coll and Lowy Institute fellow Richard McGregor, have since severed ties with the institute over concerns about its future and leadership. The pair held positions on the institute’s 12-person international advisory council. Ryan thanked the council for lending their “names and reputations to the venture”. He said it was up to them to decide whether to continue working with JNI.
An email sent in recent weeks by Simon Freeman, chief executive of Neilson’s family office, says the advisory council is under review as part of a broader assessment of operations. The Guardian reported on Friday that the council was dismissed. The advisers were not paid, but provided advice on its vision and activities.
Neilson is back in Australia but is not speaking publicly about the events that have taken place. A broader review of operations is continuing at the institute and is expected to conclude in a couple of months.
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Source: Thanks smh.com