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Attorney paints Lightbourne's former secretary as disgruntled

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/court co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com
Wednesday, March 23, 2011


VERNA McGaw, the former executive secretary to Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne, was yesterday painted as a disgruntled employee who may have had a motive to lie on her former boss.

With a line of attacking questions during yesterday's sitting of the Dudus/Manatt Commission of Enquiry, attorney Dr Adolph Edwards intimated that McGaw was demoted from a level five to a level three executive secretary because of poor on-the-job performance, which may have been her motive for saying that Lightbourne had instructed her to e-mail attorney Harold Brady about the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition request.

Lightbourne had maintained all along that she had in no way briefed Brady on the Coke extradition request that had been sent by the United States on August 25, 2009. Brady was instrumental in the hiring of the US-based law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to lobby Washington on the request.

When the e-mail was introduced by Oliver Smith (the attorney representing Solicitor General Douglas Leys) the minister had initially owned up to it but then sought to distance herself from it -- and at one point said that the document could have been a forgery.

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But McGaw testified before the commission on Monday that Lightbourne had on September 16, 2009 given her a handwritten note to type and send to Leys and Brady. The e-mail had the subject line 'extradition' and outlines the extradition process and conversations that the minister had with then Acting Director of Public Prosecution Lisa Palmer-Hamilton on August 24, 2009 and Jeremy Taylor also of the DPP's office.

Yesterday, Edwards put to McGaw that she had been furious with the minister, who told her that she would be transferred from the justice ministry because of her performance. But McGaw said that it was she who applied for a transfer because she "needed a change of environment".

McGaw also refuted suggestions from Edwards that she, at one point, had to be confronted by the minister because of her poor job performance, stating that the minister had said she was her best secretary and asked her not to leave when she had secured a transfer to the energy ministry.

Meanwhile, the e-mail was the centre of heated arguments among attorneys at the enquiry being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. Smith had introduced a copy of the controversial e-mail that was forwarded to Lightbourne's lead attorney Dr Lloyd Barnett on January 16 on the instruction of the minister.

In another development, Pauline Marcia Beverley, the consultant adviser to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice told the enquiry that the log book that could clear up a dispute over who collected the authenticated request for Coke's extradition had been missing from her office since last September.

According to Beverley, the book went missing during the preparation process for Tropical Storm Nicole.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding is expected to continue his evidence today at the enquiry which is looking into his administration's handling of the extradition request for Coke and the hiring of US law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.

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