KEN GORDON, 83, yesterday defended his hosting of a private meeting with Opposition and PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley at his Glencoe home – in the absence of the Integrity Commission Registrar – stating he was exercising powers available to “the Commission” to do as it sees fit to fulfill its mandate.
Though the entire Integrity Commission has not been fully-constituted since March, Gordon, the chairman and lone Commissioner, cited Section 5 (2) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, arguing that section gave him the authority to meet with Rowley as he did on May 15, at 24 Newbury Hill, Glencoe, when Gordon further divulged to Rowley the status of a matter that had been referred to the Commission by former President George Maxwell Richards.
In a strongly-worded statement, Gordon poured scorn on the views of those who have criticised the secret meeting, but in the process provoked more criticism from those who say his actions were simply wrong.
Though the chairman conceded his meeting with Rowley at his home, “ought to have taken place at the Office of the Integrity Commission with an officer present” he said this was only so in “a perfect world” and “that world seldom exists”.
“In the circumstances which existed on Wednesday May 15th, meeting briefly with the Leader of the Opposition and recording what had transpired for the Commission’s attention was the rational thing to do,” he said.
Gordon also for the first time revealed new details of the events of May 15, disclosing that when he called Rowley’s mobile phone for a second time, he did so from his home.
He also named Deborah Peake as the senior counsel whom he apparently unilaterally retained to provide legal advice on the issue of whether the Commission could probe the purported email materials Rowley flourished in Parliament on May 20. (Peake was Gordon’s lawyer in the lawsuit brought against the Commission by former deputy chairman Gladys Gafoor.)
Though on Thursday Gordon said he was considering resignation, the word resignation appeared nowhere in his three-page statement.
The statement came one day after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar expressed serious concerns to President Anthony Carmona over the secret Gordon/Rowley meeting.
It also came ahead of Monday’s planned announcement by Carmona of new members of the Integrity Commission, which has not been functioning since March when the terms of three commissioners expired. Gordon’s term is due to end next year.
Gordon dismissed criticisms of him as, “inflammatory and highly irresponsible”, “reckless”, “absurd” and called them “unfortunate statements and distortions.” But even as Gordon accused others of distortion, he was himself accused of distorting the law when he cited Section 5 of the Integrity in Public Life Act.
In his statement, Gordon said Section 5 (2) (c) reads, “the Commission shall have the power to do all such things as it considers necessary or expedient for the purposes of carrying out its functions.” He noted Section 5 (2) (a) also states the Commission, “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
Gordon said he was mindful of both of these provisions when deciding to invite Rowley to his home.
“I have known Dr Rowley professionally for some time but until that afternoon he had never visited my home,” Gordon disclosed. “My understanding was that he wished to communicate with me on an urgent matter. Such a matter could have been about anything, given the extreme times in which we live.” Gordon admitted he could have said no and met Rowley the next day. “But then I could have been faulted for not making the time to even listen to what the Leader of the Opposition considered urgent,” he said.
He cited the purported authority bestowed upon him under the Act.
“Also mindful of the remit quoted above from the Integrity in Public Life Act Section 5(2) (a) and (c) which clearly provides the authority to proceed in accordance with what was considered necessary, I concluded that in all the circumstances I would see Dr Rowley briefly and right away,” Gordon said.
The chairman’s highly-anticipated statement was issued in lieu of a press conference, where he would have faced questions from the media. Within hours, the statement drew criticism. Former deputy chairman Gladys Gafoor stated Gordon was wrong to cite Section 5, saying this applied to the business of the Commission as a whole, and that he should resign.
“If Mr Gordon does not step down, the President will have to revoke his appointment,” she said.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan also questioned Gordon’s interpretation of Section 5. “There is a clear distinction between the Integrity Commission when duly constituted and the individual members of the Commission,” Ramlogan said. “Mr Gordon appears to have blurred the boundary line by arrogating unto himself the powers given to the entire Commission.”
Ramlogan noted the full Section 5 (2) (c) relates to, “the power to authorise investigations, summon witnesses, require the production of any reports, documents, other relevant information, and to do all such things as it considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of carrying out its functions”, not just what was quoted by Gordon in his statement.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar declined to call for Gordon’s resignation, but said the question of Gordon’s place on the Commission was a matter for the President Anthony Carmona. Read More