News State New South Wales Uni boss denies hotel deal

Uni boss denies hotel deal

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Former University of New England chancellor John Cassidy has denied telling his business partner to invest in a pub being sold off by the university – contradicting evidence from that partner to a corruption inquiry.

Mr Cassidy told the Independent Commission Against Corruption that he did not call Darrell Hendry in November, 2005, about buying the Tattersalls Hotel, an Armidale establishment being sold off by UNE’s student union in an asset liquidation.

Mr Cassidy, who was chancellor of UNE from 2003 to 2008, is facing allegations he used confidential university information to help Mr Hendry purchase the pub and hid his own involvement in the investment.

Phone records show Mr Cassidy called Mr Hendry on 11 November, 2005 – about the time that Mr Hendry testified he received a call from Mr Cassidy alerting him to the Tattersalls opportunity.

Mr Hendry also testified that he called Mr Cassidy back two days later to say he would want a partner in the deal.

Mr Cassidy denied either conversation happened – saying he only ever sent Mr Hendry a fax of the sale advertisement because Mr Hendry had joked about buying a country pub.

Appearing before the commission for the first time on Friday, Mr Cassidy, 69, also denied any knowledge of complex ownership deeds drawn up in 2005 – before, he said, he made the decision to invest.

Evidence to the commission has shown Mr Hendry asked lawyers to draw up ownership documents placing most of the Tattersalls under the control of Mr Cassidy in December, 2005.

The ICAC has heard Mr Cassidy told UNE on January 20, 2006, that he had decided just a day earlier to invest in the Tattersalls.

Mr Cassidy told the commissioner he had no idea his business partner was preparing documents and did not understand them when he received them by fax on January 11, 2006.

“I didn’t understand it, commissioner, and I put it to one side,” he said.

Asked if he called Mr Hendry to ask about the surprise documents that seemed to commit him as majority owner of the $2.65 million hotel, Mr Cassidy said he could not recall.

“There were a lot of things going on in my life,” he said.

The hearing has adjourned.