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Thursday 22 August 2019
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[UPDATED] PENNY PROBE

Imbert investigates terms of T'dad Tourism chairman, board

Finance Minister Colm Imbert
Finance Minister Colm Imbert

FINANCE MINISTER Colm Imbert will probe the term of office of Trinidad Tourism Limited (TTL) chairman Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow, and the board, specially if it expires in 2021 and not next month.

Imbert is exercising his function as corporation sole which grants him oversight of state companies. TTL falls under the Ministry of Tourism, however, this ministry announced Imbert's investigation in a statement yesterday.

Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell

The ministry said Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell took note of what was said by Commissiong-Chow in an Express report yesterday in which she denied the tenure of her board expires next month. The former Miss Universe also shared this position in a TV6 News interview on Friday night.

The operations of TTL have come under scrutiny following a controversial decision to fire TTL CEO Camille Campbell on July 1, signed off by Commissiong-Chow, but which several directors disagreed with causing a rift in the board.

A rift also arose between the chairman and line minister, whom, it was reported asked the board to hold its hand on firing Campbell. The board's two-year term is due to end next month, the ministry said in yesterday's release.

“It is noteworthy that Cabinet at its meeting of August 17, 2017 accepted the recommendation of the Minister of Finance that the board of directors of Tourism Trinidad Limited be appointed for a period of two years, ie, until August 2019. Accordingly, the Minister of Finance is investigating the matter to determine the origin and authorisation of any other development which purports to have occurred outside of the necessary Cabinet oversight.”

Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow, chairman of Trinidad Tourism Ltd

Commissiong-Chow told TV6 News that her board was given an extension to serve for another two years by representatives of the Ministry of Finance at an annual general meeting (AGM) in February.

Board members told Sunday Newsday that following the AGM no documents or information was relayed to them that their tenure was extended. They said the first they heard of that was when they saw the chairman's TV interview. She was at the time being interviewed about her decision to fire Campbell. She denied it was a unilateral decision saying that it was a board decision to do so. This too has been challenged by two of the seven board members who were at the June 28 board meeting.

Board members Solange De Souza and Alicia Cabrera both wrote to the board telling them that the decision was to refer the matter to Mitchell in light of his recommendations that there be no hiring and or firing of any staff.

Campbell was hired in January and after three months was assessed by the human resource committee (HRC) and given a failing grade. She was given a further three month probation and on June 28 had her second assessment, minutes before the board meeting. The HRC members are Heather McIntosh-Simon, Thomas Lawrence, Joanna Welch-Gittens and Commissiong-Chow. Of the seven members at the meeting, the HRC members, made up the majority. The board is comprised 11 members and the discussion on whether to confirm Campbell was not scheduled to be discussed as it was not on the agenda. The chairman said based on the report of the HRC not to confirm Campbell, she was dismissed.

Campbell has since written a pre-action protocol letter addressed to Commissiong-Chow to the board demanding payment for wrongful dismissal, breach of contract, damages for breach of reputation among other compensation.

De Souza in her letter to the board asked for copies of both assessments, particularly the second one which recommended that Campbell be fired. Mitchell has also written to the board requesting the recommendation as well as the recommendation of Lennox Marcelle, an industrial relations (IR) consultant and attorney which formed part of the decision to fire Campbell. Board sources said Marcelle was never retained by the TTL and there was no written advice from him to the board. Mitchell’s request is for a copy of the assessment that Campbell underwent minutes before the June 28 board meeting and the advice received from Marcelle.

Following the announcement that Campbell was fired, four board members, including deputy chairman Dwayne Cambridge called for an urgent meeting. The board which met as often as every two weeks, and even on Sundays, have not met since the dismissal. Board members have used all forms of communication since then to request a meeting. Commissiong-Chow informed the board the day after the firing that she would be “off island” and could be reached via email. No meeting could not be held the week after the dismissal as the corporate secretary was unavailable for that week.

The board is expected to meet on Wednesday and the firing of Campbell is likely to discussed. The issue of the AGM extending the board’s life is also expected to be raised, as well as Commissiong-Chow's decision to appear on TV6. The board were informed of the decision minutes before the 7 pm newscast. While her interview did not contravene any board statutes, board members told Sunday Newsday that as a representative of the board, common courtesy should have mandated that they be informed sooner. Board members have described the entire dismissal process as “unfair”.

This story was originally published with the title "Imbert probes when Penny's term as tourism boss ends" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.


ONE day after chairman of the Trinidad Tourism Ltd (TTL) Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow said her board will expire in 2021, and not next month, the Finance Ministry began investigating how such a thing could or did happen.

In a media release issued by the Tourism Ministry, Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell said he took note of what was said by Commissiong-Chow who was interviewed on TV6 News on Friday. During the interview, Commissiong-Chow denied that the tenure of her board expires next month.

She has been in the media spotlight following a controversial decision to fire TTL CEO Camille Campbell on July 1.

The release stated: “It is noteworthy that Cabinet at its meeting of August 17, 2017 accepted the recommendation of the Minister of Finance that the board of directors of Tourism Trinidad Limited be appointed for a period of two years, ie, until August 2019.

Accordingly, the Minister of Finance (Corporation Sole) is investigating the matter to determine the origin and authorisation of any other development which purports to have occurred outside of the necessary Cabinet oversight.” As Finance Minister Colm Imbert's function as corporation sole means he has oversight over state companies.

Commissiong-Chow said her board was given an extension at annual general meeting held in February 2019 by representatives of the Ministry of Finance to serve for another two years.

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