GLADYS GAFOOR, 75, the former deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission who was in a bitter row with the chairman Ken Gordon, yesterday described the private meeting between Gordon and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley as “improper” and called the chairman “hypocritical” given his past treatment of her.
Gordon and Gafoor rowed after former PNM Attorney General John Jeremie wrote directly to Gordon asking for Gafoor to be removed from a complaint against Jeremie which was reportedly related to the Satnarine Sharma affair. Jeremie said Gafoor would be biased against him since her son, Anthony, had in the past rowed with Jeremie.
Gafoor was requested to recuse herself by Gordon and she refused, saying the issue of recusal was one for the individual officer to make and arguing that she could not relinquish her duties as a duly-appointed member of the Integrity Commission. Furthermore, there was no basis for recusal on the grounds reportedly cited by Jeremie.
The Commissioners — including Gordon — took a vote to force Gafoor out.
“Jeremie wanted me to recuse myself,” Gafoor told Newsday yesterday. “Mr Gordon requested that I do so. I told him I was one of five and he insisted that he did not want me to sit on the basis of this spurious claim of apparent bias against Jeremie. I was the only legal person on the commission and he told me that I must recuse myself and went behind me and wrote letters advising Mr Jeremie that he would take action against me.”
She continued, “How can we reconcile all of that with what he has done now? It appears to me that to do what he did privately on the one hand with Dr Rowley and then treat me as he did is hypocritical in the extreme. The meeting with Dr Rowley was unethical, improper and appears to show Mr Gordon’s lack of independence. His actions in relation to me thereby become doubly hypocritical.”
Gafoor said in no circumstances should a chairman meet with a person in public life at the chairman’s private residence to discuss Commission business.
“In my view it was improper to suggest meeting at home and not the office where the meeting would have taken place in the presence of the Registrar. He should not have been seeing anyone in the absence of the Registrar,” she said.
Gafoor further questioned the timing of the meeting, from a purely administrative point of view.
“Furthermore, from what I have read, the meeting was at 6 pm. But what was the purpose? What action could the chairman have taken? Nothing could have been done because there was no Commission in the first place and also nothing could have been done between 6 pm until the start of the next working day,” she said. “So notwithstanding the claims contrary, that meeting was improper, however innocent the participants would have us believe it was. It was unethical to hold it. And by the way, in my view the aide memoire is totally uncorroborated.”
Gafoor continued, “I am of the view this meeting creates the impression that the chairman is not an independently-minded person as he should be. It will damage the Commission.”
Gafoor, ironically, suggested Gordon would have to recuse himself if ever any matter involving the PNM or the Opposition Leader (who is PNM political leader) came up.
“He must recuse himself, that is if he is still there!” she said.
After being forced out of the Commission, Gafoor sued the body and details of the case came to light, such as an apparent secret meeting between Gordon and former President George Maxwell Richards at President’s House and secret communications in the form of letters to the President which contained the allegations of wrongdoing against Gafoor but were kept secret from her. Richards last year suspended Gafoor with full pay, until her term of office expired in March.
The fallout between Gordon and Gafoor also resulted in a raid on Newsday in search of its sources after Gordon took the decision one morning to call in the police to plug leaks after the paper reported on the row. Notwithstanding widespread condemnation, Gordon never condemned the police action.