Probing body claims cover up in Darryl Smith case

Cov­er up! That is one of the ma­jor find­ings of the re­port of a com­mit­tee set up by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the dis­missal and pay­ment of $150,000 to a former em­ploy­ee of the Min­istry of Sport and Youth Af­fairs, af­ter she al­leged that she was sex­u­al­ly ha­rassed by the for­mer min­is­ter Dar­ryl Smith.

A let­ter sent to Smith by the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary to the Prime Min­is­ter, Mau­rice Suite, re­vealed some of the find­ings of the com­mit­tee, which con­clud­ed that from the very be­gin­ning there was an at­tempt by sev­er­al peo­ple in the Min­istry of Sport to cov­er up the al­le­ga­tions made by Car­rie-Ann More­au.

The let­ter, dat­ed Au­gust 10, 2018 and which Guardian Me­di­an has a copy of, read: “The man­ner in which we found the MSYA treat­ed with this mater sug­gests that from be­gin­ning to end there was a con­certed ef­fort to cov­er up the al­le­ga­tion of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment which Miss More­au had made against the for­mer Min­is­ter. Miss More­au’s com­plaint was pri­ma fa­cie cred­i­ble and she cer­tain­ly de­served for it to be tak­en se­ri­ous­ly.”

Prime Min­is­ter Row­ley has re­fused to make pub­lic the find­ings of the com­mit­tee be­cause ac­cord­ing to him, they do not con­tain a re­sponse from Smith to the al­le­ga­tions.

The three-mem­ber com­mit­tee which con­duct­ed the probe was chaired by Jacque­line Wil­son and in­clud­ed Fo­lade Mu­to­ta and Elaine B Green and found that More­au was not the on­ly per­son who had raised sex­u­al al­le­ga­tions against Smith, while there were oth­er in­ci­dents that were con­sid­ered con­sen­su­al.

The com­mit­tee al­so found that there ap­peared to be a con­cert­ed ef­fort to sani­tise the fir­ing ex­er­cise of any ref­er­ence to the al­le­ga­tions of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment and to treat it as an or­tho­dox claim of un­fair dismissal. It not­ed, how­ev­er, that Miss More­au was in fact mak­ing two com­plaints. The com­mit­tee found that she was com­plain­ing that she had been sex­u­al­ly ha­rassed by the for­mer min­is­ter and that her report­ing of that com­plaint was the rea­son for her dis­missal.

The com­mit­tee said it had formed the opin­ion that the main goal of the MYSA when More­au made her com­plaint was to avoid the sub­stance of More­au’s claims, “dis­guise the true na­ture of the dis­pute” and to cov­er up the sex­u­al ha­rass­ment claim un­der the guise that a trade dis­pute was at the heart of the mat­ter. The com­mit­tee al­so said there was an at­tempt to en­sure the mat­ter was con­tained with­in the MSYA and any po­ten­tial dam­age to the for­mer min­is­ter was min­imised via the use of a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment.

More­au had al­leged sex­u­al ha­rass­ment as the rea­son for her dis­missal as Smith’s per­son­al as­sis­tant and the mat­ter was even­tu­al­ly set­tled with a non-dis­clo­sure clause at­tached to the set­tle­ment.

Smith was sub­se­quent­ly fired as Min­is­ter of Sport.

In an in­ter­view on I95FM ear­li­er this month, PM Row­ley was asked about why he had not yet made the re­port in­to the mat­ter pub­lic de­spite sev­er­al calls for him to do so from, var­i­ous sec­tors of the so­ci­ety, among them Fix­in’ T&T. In re­sponse, Row­ley said he could not pub­licly re­veal the con­tents of the re­ports be­cause it “... came to a con­clu­sion neg­a­tive­ly about Mr Smith with­out talk­ing to him.” Row­ley said Smith’s lawyers had com­plained of the process in­volved and threat­ened to take ac­tion if the re­port were made pub­lic. How­ev­er, he said ac­tion had been tak­en against the min­is­ter al­though he did not in­di­cate what the ex­act na­ture of that ac­tion was.

Fix­in’ T&T head Kirk Waite had filed a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest for de­tails of the re­port. How­ev­er, his re­quest was de­nied by the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter which in­di­cat­ed that “Se­nior Coun­sel has ad­vised that these re­quests as for­mu­lat­ed, do not com­ply with the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act.”

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Story by CURTIS WILLIAMS (Lead Editor, Business Desk)

Image by ABRAHAM DIAZ

Image caption: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and former sports minister Darryl Smith

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