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RSL boss let son use presidential suite at Sydney hotel for 7 years - all on the RSL credit card

How could anyone do this to his own, particularly to veterans.

Throw the book at him.  He's lucky not to be fragged.


Former NSW RSL president Don Rowe allowed son to use Presidential Suite at Sydney hotel for 7 years - paid for by RSL

Former NSW RSL president Don Rowe.

Former NSW RSL president Don Rowe.
  • The Australian

Former NSW RSL president Don Rowe stayed in the “presidential suite” of a Sydney hotel and allowed his son to use it for seven years even though the room was being paid for by the organisation, an independent inquiry into the veterans’ charity was told on Monday.

The inquiry, led by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, also heard Mr Rowe charged lavish meals, flights for family members, exorbitant supermarket bills and mortgage repayments to his corporate credit card throughout his 11-year reign.

Mr Rowe, who quit in November 2014 citing health issues, told the inquiry that staff at the NSW branch of the Returned and Services League told him a “presidential suite” at the four-star Hyde Park Inn had been made available for his use “as I saw fit”.

Mr Rowe said one of his sons stayed at the apartment over a period of seven years, and that on at least one occasion he used his RSL credit card to pay for his daughter to stay in the room when he wasn’t there.

“It didn’t mean that you could allow members of your family to use it ... did you understand that at the time?” counsel assisting Anthony Cheshire SC asked.

“No, I didn’t,” Mr Rowe replied.

The view from a deluxe room at Sydney's Hyde Park Inn.
The view from a deluxe room at Sydney's Hyde Park Inn.

The inquiry, which is investigating systemic failings within the NSW RSL branch, its aged-care arm RSL LifeCare and its Welfare Benevolent Institution, was also told that Mr Rowe received a $20,000 car allowance per annum of which he used a portion to pay off the mortgage of his Armidale home.

An auditor’s report last year found Mr Rowe used his RSL corporate credit card to pay for $38,000 worth of his family members’ phone bills and to withdraw over $200,000 in cash during his time as president.

Mr Rowe later paid back the RSL about $2500, a figure he calculated himself based on the approximate costs of the phone bills.

A two-bedroom apartment at the Hyde Park Inn.
A two-bedroom apartment at the Hyde Park Inn.

The inquiry heard Mr Rowe would use the credit card for everyday living expenses, including toothpaste, shirts and a $568 bill at Coles on Christmas Eve in 2013.

The inquiry also heard that Mr Rowe, a Vietnam War veteran, was receiving two pensions the entire time he was president which amounted to approximately $2000 per fortnight, but failed to declare to Centrelink the RSL funds which he was using as income.

Mr Rowe admitted that throughout his tenure as state president, numerous members of his staff raised concerns about him not keeping adequate documentation for expenses, but that he never properly addressed this.

Mr Rowe began his evidence by apologising for spending the organisation’s money on personal expenses, while insisting he hadn’t done so deliberately.

“I apologise to the RSL, LifeCare and RSL Welfare Benevolent Institution and to the members of public who have donated for my failings as state president of the RSL,” Mr Rowe said.

“The achievements during [my period as president] ... have been overshadowed by many failings including my own,” Mr Rowe said. “I accept that responsibility. I unreservedly apologise. We’ve had a big stuff-up. I don’t blame anyone else. The buck stops with me.”

There's more at The Australian.