Council’s CEO announces shock resignation

Council’s CEO announces shock resignation
Brendan Rees

City of Melbourne chief executive Justin Hanney will stand down from his role after conceding a decision not to declare a donation earlier this year for a yacht race was an “oversight”.

Mr Hanney, whose leadership has been lauded for navigating the council through the COVID-19 pandemic, made the shock announcement on October 19, saying he intended to step away in late December after four years at the helm.  

It comes amid a fundraising campaign probe in which Mr Hanney received an undisclosed donation believed to be more than $35,000 to cover the cost of racing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

The council’s CEO Employment Matters Committee has been conducting a thorough review of the donation Mr Hanney received through the Australian Sports Foundation – with a council statement saying it had “not identified any decisions that have been influenced by the donation”.

“The committee has also recommended a need for greater clarity and improvements to the council’s personal interest declaration process,” a council statement said.

“Mr Hanney should have declared the donation, something he acknowledged at the time it was brought to his attention and has since rectified.”

In a statement, Mr Hanney thanked the hard-working staff of the council, and wished the organisation well while also acknowledging that serving the community over the past four years has been an “absolute privilege”.

“I would like to thank the Lord Mayor and councillors for the opportunity to lead this great organisation,” he said, adding the council had worked “work incredibly hard every day for our residents, businesses, partners and visitors”.


There are many things that I am proud of but in particular I acknowledge our collective response to the pandemic and giving Melburnians confidence through one of the greatest challenges we will see in our lifetime.


Mr Hanney said while the CEO Employment Matters Committee report was yet to be finalised, “there is no suggestion of inappropriate decision making”.

“As I have previously acknowledged, I should have nominated the Australian Sports Foundation donation as part of my personal interest declaration process, and this was an oversight.”

Mr Hanney co-owned a yacht with Nick Foa, the former head of transport services at the Department of Transport. He too resigned in September following a government investigation into his role over the donation investigation.

Cr Capp thanked Mr Hanney for his unwavering service, saying he was a
“dedicated champion of the municipality and has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of its residents and business owners”.

“Justin has transformed the culture at the City of Melbourne, strengthening its focus on performance and achievement, and this will be one of his legacies,” she said.

“Melbourne is a marvellous city which is bouncing back following some of its toughest times and Justin’s outstanding leadership has contributed to this.”

While Mr Hanney’s successor is unknown at this stage, the council said his departure in December would allow “an orderly transition of leadership”.

Mr Hanney was only reappointed as CEO for a further four years in June – with the contract term due to end on June 30, 2026.  

Mr Hanney, a CBD resident of 14 years, was appointed to the top job in 2019, after an extensive background working with the state government.

Since then, he has been praised for his implementing an ambitious reform and revitalisation plan to help the city recover from the pandemic after being the most locked down city in the world. 

Other achievements include helping businesses achieve their full potential through the Invest Melbourne initiative and establishing Homes Melbourne to create more affordable housing new services for people experiencing homelessness.

Another success has been hosting a series of community-held Future Melbourne Committee meetings across the municipality.

Mr Hanney has also led a new neighbourhood planning process and a council-wide commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

He additionally played a central role to the state government’s purchase of the Holden site in Fishermans Bend for the creation of an employment and innovation precinct.

In an interview with CBD News after Mr Hanney was appointed chief executive, he said “I have this mantra with our staff here that we’re here to get things done and if we’re not doing things, providing great service and advancing on issues that matter than we shouldn’t be here.”


Caption: City of Melbourne chief executive Justin Hanney speaking at a Residents 3000 meeting in April. He will resign by the end of the year.

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