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City Desk
13 December, 2006  
Dunlevy v Law Society of NSW

Justice Peter Young declares that Geoff Dunlevy can be president next year, unless the law society’s council confiscates his vice-presidency before then. There’s an ocean of bitterness to wade through

imageThe whole thing took about 40 minutes and at the end Justice Peter Young CJ in Eq said this morning (Dec. 13) there was no doubt that under the constitution of the NSW Law n’ Order Society the person who held the position of senior vice-president as at December 31 became president without further ado on January 1.

So much for the internal legal advice upon which Commodore “Two-Terms” McPhie said she was acting when she sought to seize power for another stint as president on $262,485 plus Toaster accommodation.

She explained it away today saying the judge, “saw merit in both interpretations of the provision but preferred the ‘Dunlevy’ interpretation”.

In fact, there is an important distinction. The Law Society position was that since Dunlevy was filling a casual vacancy (on the retirement of Hanging Judge Johnstone from the council) he was not elected to the position.

Young decided that there was no difference between being appointed to fill a casual vacancy and being elected.

In today’s hearing, seeking declaratory relief, Bret Walker briefed by Gilbert + Tobin (for Dunlevy) spoke for about 20 minutes and Tom Bathurst briefed by Corrs (for the society) spoke for about six.

The matter has been adjourned till February, although nothing much is expected to happen unless the council moves before December 31 to sack Dunlevy as senior vice. If that were to happen issues of estoppel and damages would arise, and it would be on again for young and old.

There are a number of troublesome issues that have brought about the bitterness on the Law Society council.

Most recently there was the filling of the Mary Macken casual vacancy by Mary Macken herself. Councillor Macken is the wife of councillor Hugh Macken, although this is far from the only horizontal relationship that has crept onto the council. Strife arose because Mary forget to renew her ticket and when this was discovered she had to vacate her position.

There was a huge row in October-November over this problem with Dunlevy among those who were opposed to filling a casual vacancy with the very person who created the vacancy. The McPhie-Macken faction was pretty livid about it.

However, long before all that there was dissention over the reappointment of Mark “Refreshments” Richardson as CEO of the society. You’ll have to go back to Justinian’s coverage of that in August last year.

The then president John McIntyre, in a truly inspired move, threatened to have the Supreme Court apply the thumb screws to three newspaper reptiles who were leaked details of the council’s stoush over Refreshments’ reappointment.

imageAs McIntrye said in his strictly confidential memo to councillors, unless any leaking members of council went into the library and shot themselves he’d get the court to extract the source from the reptiles.

It is understood that Dunlevy supported McIntrye to get Richardson reappointed. Incoming president Commodore McPhie and the Mackenites were dead opposed to the reappointment. Richardson has since departed with a reported $750,000 stuffed in his trousers.

The Richardson issue created tensions last year and since then things have only got more fractious.

One other morsel. Richo’s deputy Michael Tidball was appointed CEO of the society in September this year. He is the first non-lawyer to run the society and previously he managed the aged care “facilities” of the Anglican Church. I’m told he was bullied at Barker, so he obviously has something going for him.

There was a special meeting of the council on April 11 to appoint Heidrick & Struggles, on a fee of $160,000, to recruit a new CEO.

Back in March Tidball was planning to leave the society, but when the CEO “resigned” he opted to stay on as acting boss.

My bet is that there were a few nods and winks that he was the pea for the top job. So the questions are: why did the Law Society council give Heidrick & Struggles $160,000 when the boy was in the bag, and why was the position never advertised?

There should be plenty more copy coming out of this lot over the next year.

See previous Justinian report, The improper rissoling of Geoff Dunlevy.


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