Cover up! That is one of the major findings of the report of a committee set up by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to investigate the circumstances surrounding the dismissal and payment of $150,000 to a former employee of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, after she alleged that she was sexually harassed by the former minister Darryl Smith.
A letter sent to Smith by the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister, Maurice Suite, revealed some of the findings of the committee, which concluded that from the very beginning there was an attempt by several people in the Ministry of Sport to cover up the allegations made by Carrie-Ann Moreau.
The letter, dated August 10, 2018 and which Guardian Median has a copy of, read: “The manner in which we found the MSYA treated with this mater suggests that from beginning to end there was a concerted effort to cover up the allegation of sexual harassment which Miss Moreau had made against the former Minister. Miss Moreau’s complaint was prima facie credible and she certainly deserved for it to be taken seriously.”
Prime Minister Rowley has refused to make public the findings of the committee because according to him, they do not contain a response from Smith to the allegations.
The three-member committee which conducted the probe was chaired by Jacqueline Wilson and included Folade Mutota and Elaine B Green and found that Moreau was not the only person who had raised sexual allegations against Smith, while there were other incidents that were considered consensual.
The committee also found that there appeared to be a concerted effort to sanitise the firing exercise of any reference to the allegations of sexual harassment and to treat it as an orthodox claim of unfair dismissal. It noted, however, that Miss Moreau was in fact making two complaints. The committee found that she was complaining that she had been sexually harassed by the former minister and that her reporting of that complaint was the reason for her dismissal.
The committee said it had formed the opinion that the main goal of the MYSA when Moreau made her complaint was to avoid the substance of Moreau’s claims, “disguise the true nature of the dispute” and to cover up the sexual harassment claim under the guise that a trade dispute was at the heart of the matter. The committee also said there was an attempt to ensure the matter was contained within the MSYA and any potential damage to the former minister was minimised via the use of a non-disclosure agreement.
Moreau had alleged sexual harassment as the reason for her dismissal as Smith’s personal assistant and the matter was eventually settled with a non-disclosure clause attached to the settlement.
Smith was subsequently fired as Minister of Sport.
In an interview on I95FM earlier this month, PM Rowley was asked about why he had not yet made the report into the matter public despite several calls for him to do so from, various sectors of the society, among them Fixin’ T&T. In response, Rowley said he could not publicly reveal the contents of the reports because it “... came to a conclusion negatively about Mr Smith without talking to him.” Rowley said Smith’s lawyers had complained of the process involved and threatened to take action if the report were made public. However, he said action had been taken against the minister although he did not indicate what the exact nature of that action was.
Fixin’ T&T head Kirk Waite had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for details of the report. However, his request was denied by the Office of the Prime Minister which indicated that “Senior Counsel has advised that these requests as formulated, do not comply with the Freedom of Information Act.”