Darryl's attorney calls on AG to destroy report

Date: 
Monday, November 4, 2019 - 04:45

For­mer sport and youth af­fairs min­is­ter Dar­ryl Smith is de­mand­ing that the Gov­ern­ment de­stroy all copies of the re­port in­to the pay­ment of $150,000 to his for­mer per­son­al as­sis­tant af­ter she was fired and al­leged sex­u­al ha­rass­ment.

In a let­ter sent to At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi on Fri­day, Smith’s At­tor­ney Annabelle Sook­lal al­so ac­cused Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley of giv­ing the me­dia mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion and try­ing to di­min­ish Smith’s claim of a breach of nat­ur­al jus­tice.

In a strong­ly-word­ed pre-ac­tion pro­to­col let­ter ob­tained by the Sun­day Guardian, Smith’s at­tor­ney al­leged that it was now ap­par­ent that all the me­dia hous­es in T&T had copies of let­ters be­tween her­self and the Of­fi­cer of the Prime Min­is­ter, with at least one me­dia house al­leg­ing to have a copy of the re­port.

In light of this and what Smith’s at­tor­ney deemed to be a fa­tal­ly flawed re­port that has the po­ten­tial to dam­age her client’s rep­u­ta­tion, she is de­mand­ing that the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al not on­ly de­stroy copies of the re­port but take le­gal steps to pre­vent its pub­li­ca­tion.

She wrote: “All me­dia hous­es ap­pear to be in pos­ses­sion of copies of some of the cor­re­spon­dence in this mat­ter and at least one dai­ly news­pa­per (the Trinidad Ex­press) has con­firmed that it is in pos­ses­sion of the above re­port. I re­mind you that in both of my de­mand let­ters dat­ed Au­gust 16, 2018, I sought your un­der­tak­ing that all phys­i­cal and elec­tron­ic copies of the re­port would be forth­with de­stroyed to avoid ex­act­ly this even­tu­al­i­ty.

"I re­mind you as well that from the in­cep­tion I de­mand­ed the re­trac­tion of this ir­re­triev­ably flawed re­port. De­spite re­peat­ed re­quests from me, it is now ap­par­ent that you failed and/or re­fused to take the nec­es­sary steps to se­cure the re­port such that it has now fall­en in­to the hands of the me­dia along with copies of the cor­re­spon­dence be­tween my of­fice and the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter.”

Sook­lal said it was al­so ap­par­ent that al­though the AG had ad­vice since 2018 from Se­nior Coun­sel Dou­glas Mendes, he took "no or not suf­fi­cient steps to cause the re­trac­tion of the re­port, fu­elling pub­lic sus­pi­cion and dis­sat­is­fac­tion and draw­ing neg­a­tive com­ment much of which was di­rect­ed at my client."

This is not the first time that Smith’s lawyer called for the AG and the Gov­ern­ment to de­stroy the three-mem­ber com­mit­tee re­port.

In a let­ter dat­ed Au­gust 23, 2018, Sook­lal called for the de­struc­tion of the re­port. This pre­dates the le­gal ad­vice ob­tained from Mendes by the AG.

“In these cir­cum­stances, I call up­on you to have your clients take im­me­di­ate steps to re­trieve all copies of the re­port, both print and elec­tron­ic, and have the same de­stroyed,” Sook­lal wrote to the AG.

She fur­ther de­mand­ed to know who had copies of the re­port.

She wrote: “I al­so ex­pect to re­ceive from you by 12 noon to­mor­row Fri­day, Au­gust 24, 2018, a list of the names of per­sons to whom the re­port was dis­sem­i­nat­ed and your con­fir­ma­tion that all copies have been re­trieved and de­stroyed.”

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Smith’s team is now fo­cus­ing on how the re­port was leaked to the me­dia, since by the AG’s own ad­mis­sion very few peo­ple had ac­cess to it.

In fact, since 2018 Sook­lal was al­leg­ing that Smith had in­for­ma­tion that the re­port was be­ing leaked to the me­dia.

She wrote: “Not sur­pris­ing­ly my client has now re­ceived cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion that the re­port or por­tions there­of have been pro­vid­ed to a cer­tain me­dia house which in­tends to pub­lish same. If there is mer­it in my client’s com­plaints about the pro­ce­dure fol­lowed by the com­mit­tee, then you would agree with me that the re­port which is the prod­uct of such a griev­ous­ly flawed process is like­ly un­re­li­able and un­sound. You would ap­pre­ci­ate as well that pub­li­ca­tion of such a re­port or any part there­of has the po­ten­tial to cause con­sid­er­able dam­age to my client’s stand­ing and rep­u­ta­tion, for which your clients could be li­able in dam­ages.”

On Fri­day, Sook­lal went fur­ther, call­ing on the AG to go to court to pre­vent the pub­li­ca­tion of the re­port, threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion if it is not done.

“In the cir­cum­stances, I here­by call up­on you to forth­with take the nec­es­sary steps to ob­tain un­der­tak­ings or court or­ders to en­sure that the re­port is not pub­lished in the press. Should you fail to do so, I shall ad­vise my client of his right to pur­sue a claim in dam­ages for the harm he has suf­fered as a con­se­quence of these acts and omis­sions.”

Smith’s at­tor­ney al­so ac­cused the Prime Min­is­ter of "se­ri­ous in­ac­cu­ra­cy" when he sug­gest­ed that Smith knew about the con­tents of the re­port, which she rub­bished as be­ing un­true.

In her let­ter sent to the AG on Fri­day Sook­lal wrote: “I ad­dress sec­ond­ly the state­ment made by the Ho­n­ourable Prime Min­is­ter at the post Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing yes­ter­day (Thurs­day). As you are well aware my client was nev­er pro­vid­ed with a copy of the above re­port, ei­ther by the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary or any­one else, as was re­peat­ed­ly sug­gest­ed at the me­dia brief­ing. In­deed my client is still un­aware of its con­tents, his on­ly knowl­edge com­ing from the bits pur­port­ed­ly ex­cerpt­ed by the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary. This is a se­ri­ous in­ac­cu­ra­cy which must be cor­rect­ed as a mat­ter of ur­gency as it is be­ing de­ployed to di­min­ish my client’s claim that there was a breach of nat­ur­al jus­tice.”

AG—I haven’t seen a let­ter yet

Con­tact­ed late Sat­ur­day, and asked if he had re­ceived the let­ter from Smith’s at­tor­ney, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi claimed not to know.

In­di­cat­ing he was at a char­i­ty event when he was con­tact­ed around 7 pm, Al-Rawi said, “I couldn’t tell you. I get like a thou­sand bits of cor­re­spon­dence.

“I haven’t seen a let­ter yet. Per­haps she de­liv­ered it…it’s at the min­istry, but I couldn’t tell you.”

Pressed to say if he would quick­ly read the let­ter via What­sApp and of­fer a com­ment, the AG begged off as he said, “I’m in the mid­dle of a char­i­ty event serv­ing food, it would be kind of dif­fi­cult.”

No re­sponse from PM

Calls and texts to the PM's cell phone on Sat­ur­day went unan­swered.

 

BACK­GROUND

Smith was fired in April 2018 fol­low­ing claims lev­elled against him by his for­mer per­son­al as­sis­tant who ac­cused him of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment and un­fair dis­missal.

A com­mit­tee was ap­point­ed to re­view the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the woman’s dis­missal and pay­ment of $150,000 in com­pen­sa­tion.

Mean­while, at­tor­ney Michael Quam­i­na has de­nied ever ad­vis­ing Smith on any­thing to do with al­le­ga­tions of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment against the min­is­ter.

Quam­i­na has said that his on­ly in­ter­ac­tion with Smith was to take in­struc­tions from him in re­la­tion to the dis­missal of Car­rie-Ann More­au.

Quam­i­na in­sist­ed he was re­tained by the Min­istry of Sport and not Smith, to deal with the claim of wrong­ful dis­missal against the min­istry by More­au.

He dis­missed claims by the com­mit­tee set up to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing More­au’s fir­ing and sub­se­quent pay­ment of $150,000 as a set­tle­ment, that he, Quam­i­na, was in­volved in the is­sue well be­fore it reached the stage of set­tle­ment.

Quam­i­na said the com­mit­tee’s find­in­gs of him were “en­tire­ly in­ac­cu­rate and with­out sub­stance” and he was not al­lowed to re­spond to the ad­verse find­in­gs be­fore they were con­clud­ed as is de­mand­ed by law.

He said his on­ly in­volve­ment was in deal­ing with two mat­ters—the first was whether the dis­missal was wrong in law and if so, what would be a rea­son­able set­tle­ment.

—Re­port­ing by An­na-Lisa Paul

 

The let­ter

2019 No­vem­ber 01

The Ho­n­ourable At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Of Trinidad and To­ba­go

Min­istry of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al And Le­gal Af­fairs

Gov­ern­ment Cam­pus Plaza

Cor­ner Lon­don and Rich­mond Streets, PORT OF SPAIN.

UR­GENT

Dear Sir,

Re: In­tend­ed Ju­di­cial Re­view Pro­ceed­ings in re­spect of the Re­port of the Com­mit­tee com­pris­ing Ms Jacque­line Wil­son, Ms Fo­lade Mu­to­ta and Ms Elaine Green (“the Com­mit­tee”)

I re­fer first­ly to the me­dia re­ports in re­la­tion to the above re­port over the past sev­er­al days.

All me­dia hous­es ap­pear to be in pos­ses­sion of copies of some of the cor­re­spon­dence in this mat­ter and at least one dai­ly news­pa­per (the Trinidad Ex­press) has con­firmed that it is in pos­ses­sion of the above re­port. I re­mind you that in both of my de­mand let­ters dat­ed Au­gust 16, 2018, I sought your un­der­tak­ing that all phys­i­cal and elec­tron­ic copies of the re­port would be forth­with de­stroyed to avoid ex­act­ly this even­tu­al­i­ty. I re­mind you as well that from the in­cep­tion I de­mand­ed the re­trac­tion of this ir­re­triev­ably flawed re­port.

De­spite re­peat­ed re­quests from me, it is now ap­par­ent that you failed and/or re­fused to take the nec­es­sary steps to se­cure the re­port such that it has now fall­en in­to the hands of the me­dia along with copies of the cor­re­spon­dence be­tween my of­fice and the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter. It is al­so now ap­par­ent that al­though you were armed with the nec­es­sary le­gal ad­vice from Se­nior Coun­sel since 2018, you took no or no suf­fi­cient steps to cause the re­trac­tion of the re­port, fu­elling pub­lic sus­pi­cion and dis­sat­is­fac­tion and draw­ing neg­a­tive com­ment much of which was di­rect­ed at my client.

I here­by call up­on you to forth­with take the nec­es­sary steps to ob­tain un­der­tak­ings or Court Or­ders to en­sure that the re­port is not pub­lished in the press. Should you fail to do so I shall ad­vise my client of his right to pur­sue a claim in dam­ages for the harm he has suf­fered as a con­se­quence of these acts and omis­sions.

I ad­dress sec­ond­ly the state­ment made by the Ho­n­ourable Prime Min­is­ter at the post-cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing yes­ter­day. As you are well aware my client was nev­er pro­vid­ed with a copy of the above re­port, ei­ther by the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary or any­one else, as was re­peat­ed­ly sug­gest­ed at the me­dia brief­ing. In­deed my client is still un­aware of its con­tents, his on­ly knowl­edge com­ing from the bits pur­port­ed­ly ex­cerpt­ed by the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary.

This is a se­ri­ous in­ac­cu­ra­cy which must be cor­rect­ed as a mat­ter of ur­gency as it is be­ing de­ployed to di­min­ish my client’s claim that there was a breach of nat­ur­al jus­tice.

I ask that you give at­ten­tion to these mat­ters to­day as there is every in­di­ca­tion that the prej­u­dice to my client con­tin­ues to in­crease ex­po­nen­tial­ly with every mis­step in the han­dling of this mat­ter.

Yours faith­ful­ly,

Annabelle R Sook­lal

At­tor­ney at Law
Rosa Cham­bers
No 68 Ros­ali­no Street, Wood­brook,
Trinidad and To­ba­go.
Tel : 1-868-621-5074
Email : annabelle.sook­[email protected]

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Story by CURTIS WILLIAMS, with reporting by ANA-LISA PAUL

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