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GAFOOR LOSES

Judge rules probe into Integrity Commission deputy chairman must go on

By Rickie Ramdass rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

THE way has been cleared for a three-member tribunal appointed by President George Maxwell Richards to probe allegations against suspended deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission Gladys Gafoor and whether she should be removed from her position.

A High Court judge yesterday dismissed the judicial review suit filed by Gafoor against the Commission's chairman, Ken Gordon, and commissioners Prof Ann Marie Bissessar and Neil Rolingson challenging their decision to force her to recuse herself from an investigation into former attorney general John Jeremie.

Justice Vashiest Kokaram handed down the ruling yesterday when the matter came up for hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

Gafoor had filed the suit with the hope that the court would have ruled in favour of her request to quash the majority decision by the Commission on December 19, 2011, forcing her to recuse herself in the matter.

Additionally, she was also seeking aggravated and/or exemplary damages for "serious damage to my professional reputation and integrity".

Gafoor was suspended from the Commission on February 9, by President Richards.

The president subsequently appointed the three-member tribunal chaired by former chief justice Michael de la Bastide along with Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer and Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee to probe the allegations against her.

Gafoor had also filed a constitutional motion against Richards, challenging his decision to suspend her and to appoint the tribunal to investigate the allegations against her.

Gafoor is accused of misbehaviour in public office as a result of her alleged unruly behaviour towards Gordon, Bissessar and Rolingson.

Gafoor was not present at yesterday's hearing.

Integrity Commission chairman Gordon attended the hearing.

In making his ruling, Kokaram stated: "Insofar as Mrs Gafoor complained that it was for her alone to make the decision on the Jeremie complaint and that there was no discussion of the merits of the Jeremie complaint, it is an inconsistent statement.

"Indeed, she cannot seriously contend that the Commission was incapable of making a decision on the Jeremie complaint when it was she herself, by her letter to the chairman dated December 15, 2011, who invited the Commission to consider the Jeremie complaint on its merits and advise her whether she should recuse herself.

"Indeed, such an invitation conforms with the collegiate approach to determining the issue of a recusal and some commentators suggest that this may well be the modern approach."

Kokaram further stated that Gafoor's rights, interests and entitlement as the deputy chairman remain intact and unaffected by the Commission's decision.

"There is no slur on her character or imputation of impropriety. She has not been voted out of office. ... The claim will be dismissed and for the reasons set out in the judgment, the claimant will pay to the defendant two-thirds of its cost of its claim and application to set aside leave," said the judge.

Gafoor was represented by attorneys Clive Phelps and Nicole De Verteuil-Milne, while Deborah Peake SC, Ravindra Nanga, and Marcelle Alison Ferdinand sought the interest of the Integrity Commission.

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