Lawyer refutes conflict claims by shock jock

Michael Tooma: Denied conflict of interest allegations made by Ray Hadley.
Michael Tooma: Denied conflict of interest allegations made by Ray Hadley.

Sydney lawyer Michael Tooma, who conducted inquiries into asbestos management at Blue Mountains Council, has rebutted claims by a radio broadcaster that he should have resigned because of a conflict of interest.

Ray Hadley alleged on his 2GB program in February last year that Mr Tooma was a close friend of Mark Mulligan, who was employed by council briefly in 2016 and again in November 2017.

The allegations led the then minister, Gabrielle Upton, to again threaten council with suspension.

Mr Tooma, a health and safety expert with Clyde and Co, told the public inquiry last week that he had been involved as a legal advisor to Essential Energy, where Mr Mulligan had worked. He also had a share in 2008-09 in a racehorse with some of Essential's executives, including Mr Mulligan.

He had not seen Mr Mulligan since 2013, Mr Tooma said. He rejected claims that he had any conflict of interest and said at no time did Mr Mulligan's conduct form part of his independent investigation.

The inquiry, under commissioner Richard Beasley SC,  adjourned last Friday. In this stage it is looking at whether there was any conflict over the engagement of Mr Tooma and of Scarlet Reid, who investigated so-called jobs for the boys.

Mr Beasley said while he had not reached a final conclusion "the present state I am at is that there were in fact no actual conflicts of interest to be managed".

He will hand down an interim report as soon as possible.