STORY by SUNSHINE TODAY REPORTER
The national population has been subjected to all manner of narratives touching and concerning the imbroglio involving former Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs (MSYA), Darryl Smith.
It has emerged that public funds were used to settle a claim for wrongful dismissal made by the Minister’s former Personal Assistant, Carrie-Ann Moreau, and public funds and/or resources were used to prepare a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) which has thus far prevented Ms Moreau from weighing in to give her side of the story.
No less than the Prime Minister and the Honourable Attorney General have weighed in to assure a disbelieving public that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Prime Minister himself and indeed no mishandling of the investigatory report of the three-member team which was handpicked by the Prime Minister, (it appears) to undertake a detailed review of the circumstances under which Ms Moreau was dismissed from her job in 2016. Ms Moreau complained that Darryl Smith had made improper comments and overtures to her and when spurned, he effectively frustrated her in the performance of her duties. Following these events Ms Moreau was unceremoniously dismissed from her contracted position in a manner which was not commensurate with industrial relations best practices or the law of the land.
As a consequence of the apparent haste to silence Ms Moreau. It seems that the MSYA officials, including its legal officers, forgot that they themselves were obliged to give Ms Moreau the benefit of the principles of natural justice or to afford her well-accepted industrial relations protocols such as giving her an opportunity to improve her allegedly poor performance. As a consequence, taxpayers were asked to fork out $150.000.00 together with other unspecified legal fees and costs.
This scenario would be funny if it were not so downright tragic
Prime Minister Dr Keith Christopher Rowley, in a spirited attempt to use smoke and mirrors, and to pursue his usual politics of distraction, has, on one hand, sought to throw the three member investigatory team under the proverbial bus by asserting the incompetent management of the investigative proceedings and on the other hand has sought, as late as last Thursday’s post Cabinet briefing, to crow that he got “three qualified, experienced and suitable” people to investigate and report on the entire matter.
The Prime Minister openly declared that the three, Jacqueline Wilson (former PS), Elaine Greene (Attorney at Law) and Folande Moutota botched the investigation to such an extent that the resulting report was “unusable” as the basis of taking any further action against the former Minister. He based his conclusion, as did his bantam weight legal adviser to the Cabinet, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on a legal opinion prepared by Mr Douglas Mendes S.C. one whom many describe as a PNM lawyer The Attorney General insisted that Rowley had perused this opinion but the Prime Minister said that he had not! This scenario would be funny if it were not downright tragic.
This newspaper has not had sight of the full report compiled by the three-member team but one fact is painfully clear– this team was not required to take disciplinary action against the former Minister but only to report back to the Prime Minister. An extract from the 47-page draft report is telling:
“Should the Prime Minister determine that further action is necessary, we do advise that we have considered it beyond our remit to confront the above persons with our findings against them. Accordingly, we have not presented our findings to them prior to issuing this report.
From that perspective, the publication of our findings prior to any of those persons being heard thereon may result in credible allegations of denial of natural justice and it may prejudice any action the Honourable Prime Minister may wish to take against them in the matter. And we so advise.”
It is beyond doubt that the three-member Committee put the matter in the Prime Minister’s hands for further action and he took none other than to remove Smith from his Ministerial portfolio. Far from “unusable “, the report mandated our Honourable Prime Minister to move to protect the victim of his Minister’s reprehensible action and words and to take action against both the perpetrator and those who had been complicit in trying to cover up his Cabinet colleague’s misconduct. But to the contrary, the resources of the State were “weaponized” (to borrow a phrase from the UNC’s PRO) against the victim to the extent that the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister was motivated to write over a year ago, that there “was a concerted effort to sanitize the firing exercise of any reference to the allegations of sexual harassment and to treat it as an orthodox claim for unfair dismissal”
The next steps
Prime Minister, the next step was to formulate disciplinary charges against Darryl Smith and to afford him all of the principles of natural justice, including the right to face his accuser and the right to be heard in his defence. But instead, we were treated to obfuscation and all the smoke and mirrors in the world. The players could not even get it straight whether Smith had been interviewed by the investigative team (which his lawyer admitted that he was) and who exactly was his legal representative.
Into the unsavory stew of ingredients to a class, “A” coverup walked Michael Quamina, the Prime Minister’s favored legal adviser, Chairman of Heritage Petroleum Limited and Deputy Chairman of Caribbean Airlines. Smith said that he had hired Quamina because he was “his colleague” but the learned legal luminary who is in Chambers with Douglas Mendes S.C. insisted that he was retained by MSYA but he did not recall who exactly retained his services or when same were retained. He is the same Attorney who told MYSA to settle the Industrial Court matter for the sum of TT$150,000.00 because the Ministry “had no case”. So, the Prime Minister’s lawyer was an integral part of the unhappy affair.
Really Dr Rowley “no cover-up”!!