THE COUNCIL of the Law Association yesterday condemned as “wrong and highly improper” the meeting between Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon and Opposition and PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley at Gordon’s private residence on May 15 in the absence of the Commission Registrar.
The Association noted that the matter involved the chairman meeting with a complainant at home to discuss matters reportedly before the Commission.
“It is wrong and highly improper for the chairman of the Integrity Commission to meet privately with a complainant,” the body said in a press release.
“The Council of the Law Association refers to the recent disclosure by the Chairman of the Integrity Commission that he received the Leader of the Opposition privately at his residence on the evening of the 15th May, 2013 to discuss certain matters which are reportedly before the Integrity Commission.”
The Association advised that provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act – the legislation that governs the Integrity Commission – bar a chairman from conduct which affords undue preferential treatment to any individual.
“We remind the Integrity Commission, and in particular, the Chairman, that they are bound by the Sections 24 (1) (a) and (b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act which provide that a person holding public office, including the Chairman, shall be fair and impartial in exercising his public duty and afford no undue preferential treatment to any group or individual,” the Association said.
While not explicitly calling for Gordon to resign, the Association made clear that it was “vital” that the Commission – of which the chairman is a member – should conduct itself with utmost propriety.
“The Council states further that the Integrity Commission has an integral part to play in serving the public interest. In order to do so it is vital that the Commission conducts itself with the highest degree of propriety,” the body said.
Newsday understands the Law Association press release came after an emergency 8 am meeting of the Association’s Council at the Henry Hudson Phillips Building, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
The meeting was called after senior members of the Council – the Association’s governing body – expressed deepening dismay over developments in relation to the Gordon issue and appealed to Association President Seenath Jairam SC to reverse a previous decision to not intervene in the raging controversy.
The release also came as President Anthony Carmona named four commissioners of a new Commission, but declined to announce a fixed date of the swearing-in of these commissioners, an indication that the President may be seeking more time to deliberate on the Gordon issue before installing the new Commission.
Newsday yesterday exclusively reported that Carmona has opened his own inquiry into the issue – examining comprehensively all the legal issues involved – and could come to a decision of whether to take action in relation to Gordon in the coming weeks.
Sources at President’s House yesterday said the scope of the President’s deliberations will include the advice which has now been issued publicly by the Law Association.
The Law Association is the statutory body established, among other things, “to protect and assist the public in Trinidad and Tobago in all matters relating to the law.”
It is unclear when the President could act, but sources report the President is likely to call for a meeting with Gordon. Officials at President’s House said the President may opt to settle the Gordon issue first before swearing-in the four new members, a move that could prevent the new Commission from being tainted and overshadowed by the controversial actions of Gordon.
The Association’s release came nine days after public confirmation – by Gordon – of the meeting at his private residence at 24 Newbury Hill, Glencoe.
It is understood the Association had previously declined to issue a statement but changed this position after Gordon’s issuing of a three-page statement last Friday in which he defended his actions but in the process raised more questions and provoked more condemnation.
It is understood that the Council took a majority-decision to issue a statement.
Members of the Council include: Seenath Jairam SC (President); Gerry Brooks (Vice-President); Lydia Mendonca (Treasurer) as well as senior ordinary members: Ronnie Bissessar; Joan Byrne; Hyacinth Griffith; Larry Lalla; Natasha Lamy-Ramsden; Lesley-Ann Lucky-Samaroo; Ravi Rajcoomar; Lynette Seebaran-Suite; Jagdeo Singh; Richard Sirjoo. The Council also includes junior ordinary members: Shankar Bidaisee; Trevor Clarke; Cindy Daniel; Shiv Sharma and Hasine Shaikh.
Up to yesterday, Gordon had not changed his position and had not submitted a resignation. The chairman was said to be in office at the Integrity Commission at Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, but did not answer calls to his direct line.
However, State television last night quoted Gordon as welcoming the names of new commissioners announced by President’s House but said he declined to comment on any individual appointee-designate.
Top of the list of the designated members announced yesterday was Justice Sebastien Ventour, an eminent jurist with a legal career that has spanned more than three decades.