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Ex-RSL boss didn’t follow up fund misuse

“The entire thing should not have occurred anyway.”

The former national president of the RSL suspected the-then boss of the NSW branch was misusing the charity’s money but he didn’t have evidence to prove it, a public inquiry has heard.

Ken Doolan said he became aware of allegations Don Rowe misused the charity’s money during his time as president shortly after Rowe’s resignation in 2014.

He was told by NSW RSL councillors an investigation would be launched.

Doolan said he didn’t ask for the results of the investigation or for evidence into the allegations because he didn’t have the authority to do so.

“I had no written evidence about Mr Rowe … I had no authority to request that,” he told the inquiry on Friday.

Instead, he suspected Mr Rowe had been involved in some wrongdoing and insisted if he was given evidence, he would have reported it to police.

“I suspected, I didn’t know because to know you have to have proof,” he said.

“If there was evidence of criminality, I would have had no hesitance to report it to the authorities.”

It wasn’t until 2016 that he became aware the allegations were true, Mr Doolan said.

Mr Rowe revealed to the inquiry two weeks ago he used the charity’s cash to pay for his mortgage, family phone bills, flights, meals and accommodation at a Sydney hotel during his 11 years as president.

The inquiry led by Patricia Bergin SC in Sydney has finished its fourth week after it was set up by the state government when the misuse of the charity’s funds became public.

With the benefit of hindsight, Doolan conceded on Friday, he should have asked for evidence regarding Rowe’s expenses.

Doolan retired from the RSL in 2016 and was given a car for his service to the league, the inquiry was told.

But he wishes he never received it.

“I felt particularly uncomfortable and would have preferred my colleagues would have not done so,” he said.

He insists the car was more of a gift to his wife, who was not an affiliate member of the RSL but was entitled to be because she was married to a Vietnam veteran and her father was a World War II soldier.

“They (national members) were providing to us, but really to my wife … the car because of what she had done as a non-member of the RSL,” he said.

He insists he would have never accepted the car if she was a member.

Doolan said he accepted it because he felt he was put in an “impossible position”.

The car was paid for by RSL state branches across the country, but Doolan had no idea that was the case at the time, the inquiry heard.

He agrees now it should have never happened.

“The entire thing should not have occurred anyway,” he said.

The inquiry continues on Monday.

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