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Gladys challenges fellow Integrity commissioners

Monday, March 5 2012

IN A SEPARATE judicial review lawsuit which she has filed directly against the Ken Gordon — chaired Integrity Commission, embattled deputy chairman Gladys Gafoor alleges “illegal, improper and irrational” conduct by the members of the commission and queries what appears to have been special treatment by the commission towards former attorney general John Jeremie.

A claim for judicial review was filed against the commission on Friday alongside a constitutional suit against President George Maxwell Richards in relation to his decision to suspend Gafoor and appoint a tribunal to probe allegations against her. The judicial review case focusses on the legality of the conduct of the commission.

In the judicial review claim, which was received by Newsday, Gafoor calls on the High Court to quash a decision taken on December 19, 2011, forcing her to recuse herself from a matter involving Jeremie, who had written to the commission asking for Gafoor and another commissioner – chartered accountant Seunarine Jokhoo – to be removed from all consideration of his matter. In the action, filed by attorney Nicole De Verteuil-Milne, instructing attorney for Clive Phelps, Gafoor:

* notes the timing of Jeremie’s letter to the commission, two weeks after Gordon took up the post of chairman and more than 20 months after the complaint against him was lodged,

* reveals that the commission voted three times to force her off the Jeremie matter without first obtaining legal advice; further, the commission never gave her a copy of Jeremie’s letter of complaint,

* says the commission failed to consider the merits of Jeremie’s objections, whatever they may be,

* reveals that the commission, in what she believes to be an unprecedented move, sent correspondence to Jeremie during the Christmas break, assuring him that “the result” of the probe relating to him would be communicated on February 17, 2012,

* says Gordon, the chairman, at the height of the impasse with her, made a complaint to the police over media reports relating to the row. After this complaint, Special Branch officers appeared outside of her home, an act which she regarded as intimidatory.

* questions whether the commission can be properly constituted without her playing a role in decisions.

In the judicial review action, Gafoor seeks: “a declaration that the said decision of the Integrity Commission by a majority in the persons of Kenneth Gordon, Professor Ann Marie Bissessar and Neil Rolingson causing the claimant to be recused and/or precluded from deliberating, hearing, determining or in any way participating in the said investigation of Mr Jeremie SC is a nullity, illegal, procedurally improper, irrational and/or ultra vires the Integrity in Public Life Act Chapter 22:01 as amended and in particular Section 4 thereof, null, and void and of no legal effect.”Further, Gafoor seeks, “a declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Integrity Commission to obtain legal advice and/or directions from the court on the question of bias in the constitution of the Commission if the Deputy Chairman (Gafoor) participated in the said investigation of Mr Jeremie constituted a breach of duty and is irrational and/or illegal.”

The court action further calls for, “a declaration that the failure of the Integrity Commission to consider and discuss the merits of Mr Jeremie’s complaints and to inform her of the specific allegations made against her and to afford her an opportunity to be heard before a duly constituted Integrity Commission under Section 4 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, either in person or by counsel before making the said decision to recuse and/or preclude her is ultra vires the Integrity in Public Life Act and in breach of the principles of fundamental justice and/or procedurally unfair and/or irrational.”

An order to quash the forced recusal is also sought, as are orders calling for full disclosure of three secret letters of complaint against her written by members of the Commission which were the basis of the President’s decision to appoint a tribunal and suspend Gafoor.

The deputy chairman also seeks damages “aggravated and/or exemplary damages” for “serious damage to my professional reputation and integrity .”

The commission probe in relation to Jeremie involved allegations of misconduct in public office stemming from his alleged role in the circumstances surrounding the failed attempt to remove former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma and, in particular, a land transaction involving the former Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls and a CL Financial subsidiary (pre-State intervention).

Gordon acted immediately on the Jeremie complaint, calling Gafoor over the telephone and offering to have the letter sent by courier to her at her Valsayn home.

Jeremie objected to Gafoor apparently on the basis of there being “animosity” between Jeremie and Gafoor’s son, Anthony (chairman of the Tax Appeal board); a court case (which Gafoor won) over the payment of a chaffeur allowance and a prior objection Jeremie reportedly made against Gafoor upon first being appointed by Richards in 2009 (an objection which Richards evidently ignored, later appointing Gafoor as deputy chairman, the second-highest rank on the Commission).

There were several tense meetings and exchanges, during which Gafoor advised Gordon that she was the only legally qualified member of the commission.

She noted that Jeremie objected to herself and Jokhoo, the lawyer and chartered accountant on the commission, the two positions which are mandatory for the constitution of a properly functioning commission under the governing statute.

Of the commission’s vote to force her to recuse herself from the Jeremie complaint, she notes, “the issue of recusal based on either or actual or apparent bias is not an administrative matter but an extremely complicated legal matter which cannot be properly dealt with in the absence of an attorney-at-law of at least ten years standing. Consequently, the said decision by the chairman Gordon and members Rolingson and Bissessar is a nullity and should be quashed forthwith.”

Gafoor details her attempts to resolve the issue with Gordon.

“At the commission’s meeting on or about Monday December 12, 2011, the issue of my recusal was raised at the meeting without considering the merits of Jeremie’s objection to the deputy chairman.” She says she was asked by Gordon both privately and at later a meeting to withdraw upon a vote being taken. She refused saying legal advice had to be sought on the matter. Gordon ignored this advice and the chairman voted by a majority against her and Jokhoo.

Gordon, Rolingson and Bissessar again voted to force Gafoor and Jokhoo off on December 19, 2011. When Gafoor later appealed to Gordon to vacate the resolution, Gordon, “pointed out that he would not do so as he already caused a letter to be sent to Mr Jeremie advising him that I would not deliberate upon the matter concerning him.”

At the height of the impasse between herself and Gordon, Gafoor says Gordon made a complaint to the police in relation to press reports covering their row. In an act which she interpreted as intimidatory, she said officers of the Special Branch parked in unmarked vehicles outside of her home, shortly after Gordon lodged a report with the police. Then, Snr Supt Solomon Koon Koon of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) approached her on January 6. He telephoned her to say he was on her street and wished to question her about Gordon’s report to the police. She advised him to submit his questions in writing which he did on January 12. Over the telephone, she told Koon Koon she would answer all questions concerning non-confidential matters about the commission. He told her she was not a suspect.

Gafoor said during Gordon’s tenure she would – as the lawyer member of the Commission – give legal advice on matters but this would be ignored by the chairman.

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