Deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission, Gladys Gafoor, has been suspended from duty by President George Maxwell Richards.
In a release yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Communications said Richards has appointed a Tribunal "with immediate effect" to inquire into complaints made by members of the Integrity Commission that on March 15, 2010 through to January 2012 and continuing, Gafoor has engaged in "certain conduct".
The majority of this almost two-year period predates the appointment of Ken Gordon as chairman of the Commission. Gordon was appointed on October 28, 2011.
Former chief justice Michael de la Bastide will chair the Tribunal, with Reginald Armour SC, as counsel. The other members are Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer and Justice Maureen Rajnauth Lee.
According to the release, the "Tribunal is mandated with the utmost urgency and all appropriate dispatch, to report to and advise His Excellency on the facts found, whether such conduct and/or behaviour by Mrs Gladys Gafoor constitutes conduct and/or misbehaviour within the meaning of the Integrity in Public Life Act, Chapter 22: 01, as amended and in particular section 8 (2) (d) and (e) thereof and of Section 136 (7) of the Constitution".
According to Section 136 (7) of the Constitution an officer "may be removed from office only for inability to discharge the functions of the office whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause, or for misbehaviour and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of Subsection 10". These provisions stipulate that a Tribunal be appointed to advise the President on whether the Commissioner ought to be removed from office.
Gafoor has been suspended "until further notice" but will still be entitled to the benefits of her office, including her salary.
News of her suspension and the Tribunal into her behaviour came as a surprise to Gafoor. When the Express contacted her yesterday via telephone for comment, Gafoor, who was at a Public Sector Commission meeting, expressed shock, saying no one had informed her.
"I do not know anything about this. They haven't given me any notice yet. I really don't know, maybe they intend to tell me but I really don't know at this point," she said.
She added, "I do not ever compromise my principles and always act with integrity."
This announcement by the government came on the heels of a raid by the police on the Chacon Street, Port of Spain office of the Newsday newspaper yesterday morning.
Gafoor has lately been in headlines over an alleged row between her and chairman of the Commission, Ken Gordon, reported by Newsday journalist Andre Bagoo on December 20 last year.
The dispute, according to Bagoo's report, stems from a conflict of interest pertaining to a matter pending before the Commission involving former attorney general John Jeremie and former chief justice Satnarine Sharma.
Jeremie wrote to the commission on November 15, 2011 requesting that Gafoor and commissioner Seunarine Jokhoo recuse themselves from the matter against him.
Jeremie stated that Gafoor should not be permitted to consider any complaint against him on the grounds that he had objected to her initial appointment to the commission in 2009. He also raised issues relating to questions that had been raised in October 2002 with respect to payments of a chauffeur allowance to Gafoor.
Gordon had reportedly agreed to Jeremie's request and asked both members to recuse themselves, and while Jokhoo did, Gafoor refused.
After Bagoo's article was published, Gordon had requested that the police investigate a possible breach of the "Oath of Secrecy" taken by commissioners, whereby confidential matters had been leaked to the press.
It was subsequently reported on January 26 that Israel Khan SC, Gafoor's attorney, had written to Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, saying that his client was not the one divulging information to Bagoo.
When the Express asked Gafoor to comment on the police raid at Newsday yesterday in connection to Bagoo's article, she said, "I have no comment at this time because I really don't know anything about it. I don't know Mr Bagoo or the Newsday."
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