THE Ministry of Sport’s $150,000 payout to a former employee, details of which are masked by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), is a “non-story,” Government Chief Whip Camille Robinson-Regis said yesterday. She also dismissed the media’s pursuit of the issue as “an agenda.”
“I don’t know where you all are getting this story. It is a clear case before the Industrial Court and the issue was the process used for dismissal. The media is trying to make a story out of a non-story. I don’t know if you all are pursuing real issues (instead of) trying to set an agenda. I am very sorry you all have made a story out of something that was an industrial court matter,” Robinson-Regis told Newsday in a telephone call yesterday.
Two Sundays ago, Newsday reported that a former personal assistant to Sport Minister Darryl Smith, had been dismissed after allegedly filing a sexual harassment complaint. She took the matter to the Industrial Court, but before it could be settled, she accepted the Ministry’s offer of $150,000, and signed an NDA.
Newsday contacted several senior members of the government for clarification on, among other things, the use of NDAs to settle matters using public funds. Those contacted included Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi and Sport Minister Smith. None of them responded.
“That is normal. We said that is not something that is uncommon especially in Industrial Court matters,” Robinson-Regis insisted.
Pressed whether if this was a typical way to settle trade disputes for government ministries, Robinson-Regis, who is also Planning Minister, reiterated: “It is not uncommon. It’s not my Ministry but I cannot say.”
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young referred the Newsday to his comments in Parliament last Wednesday, which he specified were related to “policy.” He added: “I was not involved in the particular matter nor do I have any knowledge of the particular matter.”
Newsday then sought to clarify the government’s policy on sexual harassment but Young did not respond. When Newsday posed that question to Robinson-Regis, she initially declined to answer the question, stating that the context in which it was asked — prefaced with the current allegations at the Ministry of Sport — had “nothing to do with the government.”
Robinson-Regis is also the chair of the PNM Women’s League. Newsday clarified that the question was about general sexual misconduct policy.
“In cases of sexual misconduct, as had been shown by the last administration (where) that seemed to have some foundation… sexual misconduct can never be condoned. That will always be the case of the Women’s League,” she said. In this Ministry of Sport scenario, Robinson-Regis said, there did not appear to be any foundation at all for the allegations. Sexual misconduct against anyone, whether it is against a man or a woman, will not be condoned, she reiterated.