RSL NSW inquiry: final 547-page report partially vindicates RSL LifeCare CEO Ron Thompson while referring former state president Don Rowe to police

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The RSL in NSW has been disgraced by the revelations of abuse of credit cards by its President Don Rowe, plus payment of consulting fees to RSL NSW directors who sat on RSL LifeCare’s board. This is in conflict with the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 where volunteer directors should not receive any remuneration.

The NSW Government instituted an inquiry, with the 547-page report just released referring 13 former NSW RSL State Councillors to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) for covering up Mr Rowe’s misconduct, and another eight for their conduct as directors.

The inquiry by former NSW Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin found Mr Rowe spent $465,376 on his RSL credit card between 2009 and 2014, and allowed his son to live rent-free in RSL-owned accommodation in the Sydney CBD for seven years.

The report also recommends amending the conditions on RSL NSW’s fundraising authority to stop it fundraising until its auditor EY has certified that it has the processes to comply with the law.

Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said Justice Bergin found the “old guard” of the NSW RSL had taken the organisation to the “brink of destruction”.

“There’s no doubt the RSL has been through a devastating experience as the astonishing level of rorting, cover-ups and cronyism was exposed for all to see,” he said.

RSL LifeCare CEO Ron Thompson is amongst those referred to ASIC. However Justice Bergin pointed out in her report that:

“It is very unsatisfactory that a CEO of an organisation should have been placed in the position to which Mr Thompson was placed.”

“He was the only person to identify the conflict of interest. He took legal advice… He then took further legal advice in respect of the steps that he took in going about determining the fees. He made an attempt to put some maths around the retainers…..That conduct was honest and was an attempt to bring some rigour to the process.”

“Mr Thompson presented as a person who did as much as he could for the best interest of RSL LifeCare.”

Ron Thompson left RSL LifeCare last month after 16 years.