Fisher hits back at ECJ, calls for full disclosure

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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FORMER Director of Elections Orrette Fisher has shot back at the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) for a statement it published in the press on the weekend insisting that the commission is not aware of any incidents of political interference in the work of the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ).

The statement pointed to media reports surrounding court proceedings initiated by Fisher last October in an effort to keep his job. Those court proceedings were dashed when he resigned suddenly in mid-March of this year.

“At no time was the former director of elections dismissed from office, nor was his employment with the Electoral Office of Jamaica terminated,” the ECJ stated.

In a statement of his own yesterday, Fisher said, with the court proceedings withdrawn, he thought the matter had ended.

“After further consideration, I chose to resign from the post before judgement was handed down. In addition to the fact that I did not wish to be in the post based on a court order — if the court had ruled in my favour — I outlined the reasons for my decisions in my resignation letter sent to the chairman on March 12, 2018,” he said.

Fisher argued that the ECJ was disingenuous as, following his resignation, he had spoken to three independent members of the commission about concerns of “growing political influence”, which he had pointed out to his staff in an e-mail, and not “political interference”.

Fisher said the media had misquoted that e-mail, arguing that “attempts at growing political influence is something which I continuously brought to the attention of the commission. A meeting was scheduled with the independent commissioners to discuss my resignation but the meeting was cancelled and never rescheduled”.

Fisher said he now wants the ECJ to make public the full content of his resignation letter, so that the public can be made aware of the reasons for his resignation.

“The ECJ is being very selective in what it releases, but I am of the view that the time has come to state all and to clear the air,” he stated.

Chairman of the ECJ Dorothy Pine-McLarthy told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that she had not yet seen Fisher's response, and could not speak on the matter without discussions with the other commissioners.

“We are not going to comment, the statement says it all… (it) speaks for itself. I can't say yay or nay, the statement says it all (but) any other step would have to be decided,” she said.

There have been reports that the former director had faced “disrespectful and abusive behaviour”, particularly from other members of the commission, and that this could have influenced his decision to quit.

The former election boss, who had been in the post for over a decade, tendered his resignation amidst seeking judicial review of the legality of a one-year appointment to the post of director of elections, which his attorney argued went against the seven-year appointment mandated by law.

Fisher's contract ended October 2017, but the court ordered that he should remain on the job while the legal matter was pending.

He was first appointed for seven years as director, ending November 2015, and was given a one-year extension with the February 2016 election pending, after which he signed another one-year contract to accommodate the local government elections in November 2016.

In January this year, a petition reportedly sent to the commissioners by a number of the EOJ staff defended Fisher's integrity, and urged the ECJ to protect them from political interference, “and from any or all overt or covert political action that may influence or may have the likelihood of influencing our role in achieving free and fair elections”.

— Alphea Saunders

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