UNIVERSITY of New England chief operating officer David Cushway has spoken out against reports linking him to business deals with former MP Richard Torbay.
He spoke to The Express prior to Mr Torbay’s first statement since he was referred to the Independent Commission against Corruption.
Mr Cushway, a former police superintendent, said he had not engaged in unlawful or unethical conduct and was seeking legal advice regarding recent media reports.
“Much has been reported in recent weeks regarding my relationships with members of our local community,” he said. “The recent media reports contain numerous inaccuracies and have created unwarranted and malicious speculation and rumour.
I can state without reservation that I have engaged in no unlawful or unethical conduct and have at all times complied with my personal and professional obligations. I am now seeking legal advice in respect of these media reports.”
Mr Torbay released a written statement yesterday, claiming he was on an “extended break”.
“I will always consider Armidale and the New England area my home, where I intend to live and work in the future,” he said. “It has been reported in the media that there has been a referral to ICAC. I intend to cooperate fully.
“I have been advised not to respond to media speculation which has been overwhelmingly false and misleading.”
Mr Cushway said he had received a lot of support from colleagues at UNE.
“I do wish to thank those friends, colleagues and the University of New England, who have remained open minded and objective throughout this process,” he said. “I do not propose to make further comment in respect of these matters at the present time.”
Mr Cushway was supported by UNE vice-chancellor Jim Barber, who sent out an email to all university staff members to reaffirm the university’s position.
“It’s very distressing to see these constant references in the media to our former chancellor [Mr Torbay] and our chief operating officer, but we all need to remember that no one has been charged with anything,” Professor Barber said. “For me, it is a simple matter of natural justice – I have no right to act against any of my staff on the basis of rumour or unsubstantiated allegation.
“If David is ever formally charged with or found guilty of anything, I will of course reconsider my position, but until then I have no right to act as his judge and jury and I will not be his executioner.
“I would hope that all fair-minded people would act similarly.”
Meanwhile, a public meeting has been called by the National Tertiary Education Union at the university today to discuss some of the recent issues highlighted by the media.
The meeting will be held at the main arts theatre from noon.