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Minister says Fidelis Heights home is not hers

Published: 
Monday, December 28, 2015
Marlene in ethics accusation over house
Marlene McDonald

Housing Minister Marlene Mc Donald says she does not own a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) allocated home.

She said this in an interview last night after being referred to the Integrity Commission from Opposition UNC Senator Wayne Sturge.

McDonald said she purchased her own home privately in 1995 and could not claim ownership of any other house. She did not say where she lives.“Let him go to the commission. Let the Integrity Commission do what they have to do. This is nothing but a wild goose chase,” Mc Donald said.”

Sturge yesterday referred Mc Donald to the Commission over allegations that she used her office to obtain a townhouse for one Michael Carew, described as her common law husband.

The allegation dates back to 2008, when Mc Donald was the Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. 

Sturge’s action comes one month after former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal claimed he had evidence that a sitting PNM Cabinet Minister owned an HDC house and paid for it with cash. There’s no independent confirmation, in Sturge’s submission, whether the minister referred to was McDonald.

In a telephone interview late yesterday evening, Mc Donald said there was no HDC house in her name.

Mc Donald said she took her position as a government minister very seriously and added that there had been earlier claims about a similar occurrence.

“When I heard another former minister make claims that someone in the PNM had purchased an HDC home I wrote to the CEO of HDC. I asked her to do a report for me on which Cabinet minister owned an HDC home.

“I got an answer from her in writing and it said no cabinet minister owned an HDC home. I still have that letter.

Mc Donald, who referred to Sturge as a stranger, said she found it curious, that the attorney claimed to know her personal business.

“I do not know him. We have never spoken to each other outside of Parliament.”

She said Carew was being treated unfairly.

“Any citizen of this country is free to go to the HDC an apply for a house. Whether or not you know the minister, HDC has to do their assessment and then they make their decision. I dare anyone at HDC to say I asked them to give Mr Carew a house.”

“If he decides to buy a home, he is not a person in public life he can do so.”

Documents obtained by the Guardian detailed correspondence allegedly from Mc Donald’s then advisor Odette Alexander, to then acting Housing Development Corporation (HDC) managing director Margaret Chow, and Lauren Legall, the Allocations Manager at the time. 

The documents showed requests made, allegedly on Mc Donald’s behalf, for a housing unit to be allocated to Mc Donald’s partner, Carew, at Fidelis Heights.

Fidelis Heights is a development of and managed by the HDC in St Augustine.

Asked about these letters, Mc Donald only said that she never had an advisor between 2007 and 2010.

“Miss Odette Alexander was not my advisor.”

According to the documents, recommendations were made in August and September of 2008 for Carew to be allocated a unit.

The recommendation of the minister was then allegedly acted upon by the acting manager Margaret Chow who approved the allocation of the unit to Carew on December 3, 2008.

Carew, allegedly made the payment for the townhouse the next day.

Sturge says the matter is “most serious” and “troubling” in light of the fact that Mc Donald presently held the portfolio of Housing Minister.

“If these allegations are found to be true, as prima facie the evidence seems to suggest, it would not be right for such a person to continue to hold such office and be vested with th the powers of the office holder.

“In the public interest and in the proper discharge of its functions under the Act, I hereby call upon the commission to investigate this complaint forthwith and to give this investigation priority,” Sturge wrote.

The documents also included a bank statement, cheque and other documents related to the alleged incident.

Sturge is asking the Commission investigate whether McDonald used her position as a Minister of Government to recommend her spouse be allocated the unit.

The unit, which Sturge alleged was never occupied by either Mc Donald or Carew, was rented out since its allocation and the senator says this should also be investigated.

“This townhouse is a unit that ought to have been allocated to a deserving member of the public but instead it appears that it has been allocated to Mr Carew and is being used as an income generating asset,” Sturge claimed.