BLUNDER

BLUNDER

• Integrity Commission admits error in Creary accusation • Wheatley seeks judicial review of conclusions made about him

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

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Approximately two hours after news emerged that former Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley had filed a court challenge to conclusions made about him by the Integrity Commission in its probe of the Petrojam scandal, the commission admitted that it had erred in an aspect of the same report relating to Port Maria Mayor Richard Creary.

The dramatic developments came on the very day that a joint oversight committee for the commission had its first meeting. The group grappled with the limitations of dealing with actions taken by the newly reactivated commission.

A corrigendum (correction of an error) from the commission was tabled in House of Representatives confirming Creary's insistence, last week, that he was not present at a meeting at which former Petrojam General Manager Floyd Grindley was interviewed for the job.

In its report to Parliament last week the commission stated that there was “a strategic placement of certain individuals” on the Petrojam board, including Chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh and director Richard Creary, which led to the appointment of Grindley and later Yolande Ramharrack as the human resource development and administration manager.

The commission accused the administration at the refinery, including Wheatley, of “acts of irregularity and/or impropriety, conflict of interest, corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and favouritism”.

However, Creary, who is chairman of the St Mary Parish Council, responded immediately, denying that he was involved in the meeting at which Grindley was considered for the position.

The commission referred to its evidence and found that Creary was right and that he had been listed as “unable to attend” the meeting. The commission had actually sent the corrigendum to Parliament last Wednesday afternoon. However, sources at Gordon House told the Jamaica Observer that the information was received after the House of Representatives had adjourned for the day and, with no meeting of the Senate on Friday, it had to await yesterday's meeting to be tabled.

In the meantime, Wheatley has applied to the Supreme Court for leave for a judicial review of the contents of the two reports regarding his involvement in acts which led the commission to accuse him of dishonesty and being “less than truthful”.

The commission stated that Wheatley was dishonest in his representations and misled the director of investigation, contrary to section 48 (3) of the Integrity Commission Act, Section 11E of the Commission of Enquiry Act, and Section 4 of the Perjury Act.

But Wheatley is challenging the “lawfulness and fairness” of the conclusions drawn by the commission, in particular that he was “less than truthful and dishonest” in his representations to the director of investigations when he described Sophia Deer as his former technical assistant; and, his representation that he divested all matters pertaining to donations within his constituency to the late Councillor Owen Palmer.

Wheatley is asking the court for an order of mandamus, requiring the director of investigations to recommend to the commission to publicly exonerate him for allegations of acts of impropriety and nepotism.

He is also seeking an order quashing adverse conclusions, recommendations and findings made against him by the commission “that were not grounded in fact or law”; a declaration that the adverse conclusions, recommendations and criticisms in the report were invalid to the extent that they were founded on invalid findings of fact; a declaration that where a commission calls a person's reputation into question in a direct way, any criticism which is made must be based on evidence that has probative value; and, a declaration that where a commission makes a finding in the exercise of an investigative jurisdiction the commission must base its decision upon evidence that has some probative value.

With regard to the arguments raised by the Integrity Commission, in which it dismissed Wheatley's representation that he had divested matters pertaining to donations within his constituency to his former councillor, and accused him of being less than truthful, the former minister described the actions of the investigator as malicious and irrational.

Wheatley also dismissed the claim by the commission that he had perjured himself by his insisting that Sophia Deer was his technical advisor, and expressed his willingness to provide evidence of her employment if necessary.

Dr Wheatley noted that section 54(5) of the Integrity Act requires the director of investigation to recommend to the commission to publicly exonerate the person being investigated of culpability in circumstances where he finds that the matter which gave rise to the investigations does not constitute an act of corruption or any wrong doing.


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