Dave Willey, the President of the SU, has defended himself following the Exec’s decision to censure him over his involvement with Outgoing Travel (see Impact 179). In a statement read out by Willey at a SU Council meeting on Thursday 16th November in response to the censure, he said, “I disagree with the Executive Committee’s decision of a Censure.” He later commented to Impact that he felt the censure was in effect a token gesture: “The reason I don’t agree with it is because it was a perceived conflict of interest, we looked into it and there was found to be no conflict of interest…the Exec censured me because they wanted to tell the rest of Council that they had done something.” Willey went on to say that he had sought legal advice over his relationship with both the SU and Outgoing Travel Ltd, and was advised that he had behaved in a “legal and proper manner at all times”.
The report on the President’s affairs put together by the remainder of the Exec concluded that Willey’s conflict of interest arose in three elements. Firstly, when he was Director of Karnival, he was in paid employment of Outgoing Travel. As part of his job for both these companies was promoting the Summer Break, the Exec felt that he was “seeking to make revenue for two separate organisations…[and this was] a conflict of interest.” Secondly, when Willey was President-Elect he was still employed by Outgoing Travel, something which could lead to the “perception” of a conflict of interest. Finally, the report identified that “when Dave Willey was Students’ Union President he received benefits in kind from Outgoing Travel. Dave Willey invited members of other Student Unions Executive Committees from around the UK to come on a trip to Amsterdam paid for by Outgoing Travel. The Executive Committee deemed this to be a conflict of interest”. In fact, Willey actually missed a Council meeting in order to go to Amsterdam for Outgoing Travel.
Yet, Willey claims that there was no conflict of interest between his two roles, simply because he did no work for Outgoing Travel since becoming President of the SU. He argues this despite the revelations about his all-expenses paid trip to Amsterdam: “In terms of working for student groups here, I hadn’t done anything [for Outgoing Travel], the only thing I had done was the Amsterdam Trip…but it wasn’t anything to do with Nottingham students.” Willey went on to concede that it was “quite unbelievable” how little work he had done for Outgoing Travel since becoming President.
However, some in the Exec feel that despite a lengthy investigation, Willey got off lightly with just a warning from the Exec, and that disciplinary action should actually have come from the SU Council as a whole. One source close to a Sabbatical Officer told Impact, “Some certainly felt that it should have gone to the Council, and that Dave maybe should have had a warning from Council, not just the Exec.”