The former vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide inappropriately touched, hugged and kissed two female employees in unwanted and unwelcome sexual behaviour that showed "egregious disrespect", South Australia's corruption watchdog says.
Peter Rathjen's actions have been investigated following complaints over the incident in April last year, with Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander also looking at the university's handling of the affair.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Lander said he had accepted the two women as "witnesses of truth" and had rejected Mr Rathjen's evidence where he sought to disagree with their account or minimise his conduct.
"The vice-chancellor engaged in conduct that was entirely inappropriate by treating the women with egregious disrespect," the commissioner said.
"It was all the worse having regard to his position within the university and the two women's relative positions in the university.
"I have found, contrary to the evidence given by Professor Rathjen, that his conduct was sexual in nature and advertised by him to the women as sexual."
Mr Lander said the former vice-chancellor had also lied to university chancellor Kevin Scarce and in evidence to his inquiry.
Prof Rathjen had denied also being under investigation for historical claims of sexual harassment or abuse of a female post-graduate student while he was an academic at the University of Melbourne.
"I have found that the vice-chancellor lied to the chancellor because he knew, if he told the chancellor the truth, that he was subject to investigation in relation to a previous claim of sexual misconduct it would jeopardise his tenure at the University of Adelaide," the commissioner said.
He said Prof Rathjen similarly denied, in evidence, any such conduct with the woman.
"Later in his evidence when it became clear to him that information had been provided to me that would establish that answer to be false, he admitted that he had engaged in that conduct," Mr Lander said..
"He said that he lied to protect the woman involved, but I do not believe him."
The day after giving evidence to the ICAC, Prof Rathjen resigned his university post.
Mr Lander also criticised university management for not referring the original complaints from the two women to the University Council, its governing body, and for moves against Mr Scarce over his failure to take such action.
He said Mr Scarce was presented with a fait accompli that he either quit or face being stood down.
"I do not think that the chancellor should have been put in the position in which he was put," Mr Lander said.
"I do not think my investigation could have embarrassed him or the university such that he needed to resign. However, he elected to put the University's interests above his own by resigning."
The commissioner found that Mr Scarce had been entitled to act on external legal advice the university had obtained.
Mr Lander said apart from the former vice-chancellor, none of the university's public officers, including the chancellor, engaged in misconduct or maladministration as defined in the ICAC Act.
Australian Associated Press