The Greens have joined peak disability bodies in calling for two former senior public servants to stand down from the Royal Commission into the abuse of people with a disability, with a statement from the party noting a commissioner's role in the closure of the Stockton Centre and the re-homing of its 360 clients.
John Ryan, who is also a former Liberal member of the NSW upper-house, said his previous position with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, which involved coordinating the closure of the Stockton Centre as well as other large institutions in the state, would not impact his ability to serve as a commissioner.
"The commission is chaired by the judge, they have special powers concerning conflicts of interest and I have already raised that I worked for FACS and I have resigned from FACS," he said.
"I will seek advice on anything further required, like excluding myself from listening to evidence with any relevance to the matter or removing myself from the matter all together and that's something that happens at royal commissions.
"For anyone involved we will all have to address the issue of conflict of interests, that is something I am constantly aware of."
Disabled People's Organisations Australia has released a statement signed by over 60 disability organisations requesting Barbara Bennett and Mr Ryan to stand down "due to the real, perceived and potential conflicts of interest" arising from their roles in government departments that would likely come under the scrutiny of the commission.
Ms Bennett was recently deputy secretary of the families and communities branch of the national Department of Social Services. Mr Ryan was director of contemporary residential options for the NSW Department of Families and Communities between 2012 and 2018.
A statement from the office of Greens senator and disability spokesperson Jordon Steele-John echoed the peak body's comments, saying both commissioners' positions were "untenable".
However, it also noted a NSW Ombudsman report, released last year, which found a "range of significant problems" in the care of two former Stockton Centre residents who died within a fortnight of moving into a group home in 2017.
Mr Ryan said his responsibilities regarding the centre were "more coordination", and were not related to the ombudsman's inquiries. He was not asked to provide evidence for the report, he said.
"FACS prohibited me having direct involvement in determining the care of people with disabilities when they were at the centre, and in the group homes afterwards," Mr Ryan said.