Saturday, February 24, 2018

Integrity Commission needs bush bath

Gafoor's lawyer:

"THAT Integrity Commission needs a bush bath!"

This is the view of attorney Clive Phelps, who is representing the commission's suspended deputy chairman, Gladys Gafoor, in a judicial review matter filed against the commission.

Gafoor is challenging the December 19, 2011, decision of her fellow commissioners to have her recuse herself from hearing a complaint made against former attorney general John Jeremie, SC.

Asked yesterday by Justice Vasheist Kokaram in the Port of Spain High Court whether Gafoor was still interested in sitting in the Jeremie matter, Phelps said Gafoor now wants to stay far away from it.

Gafoor was granted leave by Kokaram in March to challenge the commission's decision.

Jeremie had written to the commission, requesting Gafoor and another commissioner, chartered accountant Seunarine Jokhoo, be removed from considering his matter.

The other members of the commission, Ken Gordon (chairman), Prof Ann-Marie Bissessar and Neil Rolingson, agreed with Jeremie and Jokhoo recused himself. Gafoor, however, refused to follow suit.

In his closing submission, Phelps said he believes the country would be better off if the Integrity Commission is got rid off.

Phelps said the commission has been embroiled in controversy for several years.

He told the court that, among other things, the other members of the commission had suspected that Gafoor was leaking private and confidential information to the media.

"The claimant (Gafoor) was not a suspect in any leak from the Integrity Commission," Phelps said.

"The police told her so. That is incontrovertible evidence."

He said the issue is not whether the commissioners could work with Gafoor or whether she is a difficult person, but whether she was treated fairly.

Phelps said Gafoor, before Gordon was made chairman, served on three differently constituted boards of the Integrity Commission and there was never any complaint made against her.

He said it is evident that problems have arisen as a result of a personality conflict between Gafoor and Gordon.

Kokaram said he believed the live issue to be determined was the procedure which the commission ought to follow whenever the issue of recusal on the ground of bias was raised.

He asked the parties to consider whether the question of Gafoor sitting on the Jeremie matter should be formally placed before her again for her consideration.

Kokaram said if that was resolved, the only issue which would be left for him to be determined was the procedure to be adopted when recusal requests arise.

Lead attorney for the commission, Deborah Peake, SC, is expected to respond in writing to Phelps's submissions by November 23.

Kokaram has earmarked December 17 as the day for the delivery of his judgment.

Also representing Gafoor are attorneys Mark Seepersad and Nicole De Verteuil-Milne, while attorneys Ravindra Nanga and Marcelle Ferdinand appear with Peake on behalf of the commission.