ODPEM boss quits
Political interference said at heart of disaster agency head's resignation one month before start of hurricane seasonTuesday, May 04, 2021
BY ARTHUR HALL
Six months after he was appointed to head the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), long-time public servant Leslie Harrow has quit following what is alleged to be political interference in the performance of his job.
This leaves Jamaica's chief disaster response agency leaderless one month before the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season — the initial forecast for which is 16 named tropical storms, with seven projected to become hurricanes and at least three major hurricanes.
The Jamaica Observer has confirmed that Harrow submitted his resignation last Friday with immediate effect after telling senior staff members that he was not willing to accept the disrespect he was getting from members of the political directorate.
“He was seconded to the ODPEM for an initial six months, but he was scheduled to be there for a minimum of one year. But the issues at the top caused him to decide to leave at the end of the six months,” said an Observer source close to the issue.
“He could not accept how he was being treated, with instructions just being given to him and he being forced to implement whatever he was instructed to do even when he knew it was wrong,” added the source.
Efforts to contact Harrow yesterday were unsuccessful. However, Observer sources said his decision to walk has earned him many points in the eyes of the long-serving ODPEM staff members who have applauded him for showing cojones rather than becoming a lackey.
“The staff is pretty much respecting him for taking his position, as he had repeatedly said he would not take that much disrespect. Nobody in Government has said anything to the staff yet, but staff members are aware that he was asked not to say anything about his resignation last Friday while the powers that be determine how to massage what is released.
“They want to decide what they say to John Public when the time comes, and they want to keep it hush hush to the point where they told him not to write anything, just leave,” added the source.
There was surprise in many circles late last year when Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie announced the appointment of Harrow to head the ODPEM effective Monday, November 2.
McKenzie made the announcement on November 1 at Webster Memorial United Church in St Andrew during a service to mark the launch of Local Government and Community Month.
At that time, McKenzie said Harrow was “bringing some 25 years of service and experience in the field of administration and governance” to the ODPEM.
Harrow had previously held numerous positions at the Electoral Office of Jamaica before he was hand-picked to fill the ODPEM post which had been vacant for more than a year.
But most people with knowledge of Jamaica's disaster response mechanism had expected the job to go to Richard Thompson, the long-serving deputy director general, who had performed admirably for the year in which he acted.