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Sunday 20 October 2019
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Race to resign

4 members quit T'dad Tourism board

 Janelle Penny Commissiong
Janelle Penny Commissiong

FOUR members of the now embattled Trinidad Tourism Ltd board, chaired by Janelle Penny Commissiong, have tendered their resignation stating they could not work as the board is now in odium.

The resignations came two days after the board had a heated 10-hour-long meeting following the now controversial dismissal of CEO Camille Campbell. After her July 1 dismissal, Campbell sent a pre-action protocol letter to the board for wrongful dismissal. An acting CEO Heidi Alert was appointed at Wednesday's meeting.

Board members told Sunday Newsday that it was a “race to resign” with deputy chairman Dwayne Cambridge earning gold. Second to pack it up was Solange De Souza, followed by Alicia Cabrera and then Dennis Ramdeen. Board sources said the July 17 meeting began without Cabrera, who was out of the country, and requested that she be teleconferenced. This request was denied by Commissiong saying that there will be no teleconferencing at meetings from now on for fear of leaks to the media. Her refusal, board sources said, is contrary to legislation governing the running of state boards as the decision can only be taken by vote and not unilaterally by the chairman. Board members told Sunday Newsday that De Souza, an attorney, had a shouting match with Commissiong over several issues including the decision not to teleconference with Cabrera. The sources said every instance the issue of Campbell's firing arose it was either shelved for a later time, resulting in the hours long meeting, or completely ignored by the chairman.

In her resignation letter, De Souza itemized 38 things that she found was not in keeping with good practice as a board. In her closing remarks, she said she found that “the board has been brought into odium and the good name of the directors for TTL has been sullied”.

Similarly, Cambridge listed four reasons for his resignation and ended his letter saying: “In my humble opinion and based on other adjoining facts, the board in its entirety has been brought into abhorrence.” Cabrera stated in her letter that she believes in fairness and respect for others but believed that the board’s strategic marketing direction “has not been the key priority at this meeting and frankly several other meetings.”

Sunday Newsday spoke with Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell on the issue yesterday after the PNM’s general council meeting, at Balisier House, Port of Spain and he thanked the board for their “national service” but refused to comment further. Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who has oversight of state boards given his portfolio, refused to comment on the matter.

Following the June 28 meeting, where seven members of the 11 board members attended and five voted to dismiss Campbell, De Souza and Cabrera wrote to the board requesting the board be given a copy of the advice received by the human resource sub-committee (HRC). Both women wrote that the decision was never to fire Campbell but to refer the matter to Mitchell having been informed that there should be a freeze on hiring and firing of staff. Commissiong said following the dismissal she acted on what the board decided backed by advice from industrial relations specialist Lennox Marcelle.

Head of the HRC, Heather Mc Intosh-Simon told the board at last Wednesday's meeting what the advice was but did not present it or read from it. She said the advice came the day Commissiong penned the dismissal letter to Campbell and was only seen by herself and Commissiong. Sometime after, Campbell was fired.

Board sources said based on what Mc Intosh-Simon relayed, Marcelle’s advice called for the board to follow the necessary protocol and warned that Campbell was never informed that she was being looked at to be fired at her June 28 assessment. The advice also stated that Campbell needed to be given notice of the board’s decision to dismiss her, which was not done.

The dismissal got the attention of the Prime Minister who said Government needed to address the issue. The matter was discussed at Cabinet sometime after but no decision has been taken. The board has until Friday to respond to Campbell’s pre-action letter and Marcelle, board sources said, is in the process of drafting the response.

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