The ACT government appointed the former head of Corrections into a new executive public service position paying $327,000 a year just as a damning report into Canberra's prison riot had been submitted to the government for internal assessment earlier this year.
Freedom of information documents reveal the timing of a sliding doors executive move in which prison chief Jon Peach was installed into the role, with no change to his senior executive salary, shortly after his boss, the Director-General of Justice and Community Safety (JACS) Richard Glenn, had received the draft report.
Under ACT legislation, the Director-General receives the inspector's reports for internal comment six weeks - or in this case, around mid-February - before they are publicly tabled.
On March 4, Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman announced Mr Peach would be taking up the position as head of Security and Emergency Management and former Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson would act in the top Corrections role.
Around three weeks later, the report into the jail riot was publicly tabled in the ACT Assembly.
The FOI documents revealed Mr Peach started in his alternative role - still within deputy director Karen Doran's Community Safety portfolio - on April 1 and is contracted until late 2024. His previous contract was due to expire in April next year.
The report from the independent Inspector of Correctional Services Neil McAllister was critical of actions taken by Mr Peach when the riot broke out on the night of November 10 last year.
In his report, Mr McAllister offered the view that Mr Peach's attendance at the jail that night caused confusion among "the AMC staff, and emergency services ... as to who was in charge".
During the November riot, 27 detainees - all held within the north accommodation unit known as the Comancheros bikie gang-run wing of the prison - refused to return to their cells for the evening lockdown.
It began as a passive protest but quickly escalated as the prisoners then armed themselves with broom handles and other implements, set fire to several areas of the jail, pelted firefighters with chair legs and bottles of frozen water, and were involved in a tense stand-off with prison staff which went late into the night.
Mr Peach appeared before the media the day after the riot but delivered a watered-down account of what transpired, and excluded detail which he claimed he was not aware of at the time.
Full order was not restored and all prisoners relocated and secured inside the Alexander Maconochie Centre until around 3am the next day.
Eight of the "ringleaders" from the incident have since been transferred into the NSW prison system.
Smoke, fire and equipment damage to the jail was estimated at $5.7 million.
The Liberals spokesperson on corrections, Elizabeth Kikkert, described the executive reshuffle as appearing, on face value, to have occurred to "avoid a public backlash".
"To appoint an individual who has recently been heavily criticised for his emergency management into an executive group manager of security and emergency management role is irresponsible and not befitting," Ms Kikkert said.
"The Alexander Maconochie Centre is plagued with serious problems and has been severely mismanaged by this government.
"The ACT government needs fresh eyes and an individual who inspires, to fit this executive role."
The search for a new ACT Corrections Commissioner is under way.
The Justice and Community Safety Directorate was approached for comment.
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