THE INTEGRITY Commission yesterday afternoon confirmed that chairman Ken Gordon hosted a private meeting with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at Gordon’s Glencoe home on May 15, days before Rowley in Parliament called on the Commission to probe purported emails implicating Cabinet officials.
In an aide memoir of the meeting kept by Gordon — released by the Commission’s Registrar Martin Farrell to Newsday — the Integrity Commission chairman discloses that he:
* called Rowley’s mobile phone twice in response to a message from Rowley requesting an ‘urgent meeting’;
* suggested to Rowley that both men meet at Gordon’s home since both live in the same area;
* offered Rowley a drink once both were at Gordon’s Newbury Hill, Glencoe home;
* informed Rowley that a matter raised by Rowley with former President George Maxwell Richards was not before the Integrity Commission since the Commission was not properly constituted as at that date.
The Commission’s release of the aide memoir came hours after Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal called on Rowley in Parliament to state whether Rowley held “secret discussions” with an unnamed “high official” of the Integrity Commission in May, prior to making a call in Parliament for the Commission to probe a series of documents purporting to be emails implicating Government officials.
In response to questions from Newsday sent yesterday morning, Farrell in the afternoon disclosed the aide memoir of the May 15 meeting.
“In response to your questions, the chairman has asked that I provide you with the attached aide memoire dated Wednesday May 15, 2013, which was passed to me by the Chairman soon after the meeting between himself and Dr Rowley,” Farrell stated in an email. The aide memoir, dated May 15, gives Gordon’s account of what happened after Rowley attempted to arrange an “urgent meeting” with Gordon on May 15.
“At the end of a meeting at the offices of the Integrity Commission on Wednesday 15th May I received a telephone message from my Secretary that the Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley had called me at approximately 2.23 pm,” Gordon states.
“He requested an ‘urgent meeting’. He asked that I return his call and left his cell number to facilitate my doing so.”
The chairman of the Integrity Commission then took steps to try to contact Rowley, the Diego Martin West MP, Opposition Leader and former PNM minister.
“I attempted to reach him without success and left a message on his answering machine,” Gordon says. He made a second attempt, which was successful.
“Not having heard from him (by 6 pm) and mindful of the urgency expressed earlier I tried again to reach him and this time did so,” Gordon states. Rowley told Gordon he was on his way home, prompting Gordon to make a suggestion.
States Gordon, “He (Rowley) stated that he was on his way home and that the ‘urgency’ still existed. Since we live in the same general area I suggested that he could stop over to see me on his way home. He did so and arrived some ten minutes later. I offered him a drink which he declined and we moved straight to the business of the meeting.”
Gordon says Rowley informed Gordon that he had “reason to believe” that Richards had referred a matter to the Commission and Rowley wanted to embark on a “certain course of action” since two months had elapsed.
“He advised that prior to former President Richards’ departure he (Dr Rowley) brought to the President’s attention a matter he considered to be very serious,” Gordon states. “Dr Rowley had reason to believe that the President may in turn have brought such matter to the attention of the Integrity Commission. Now with more than two months having elapsed Dr Rowley proposes to embark upon a certain course of action. He is therefore, enquiring whether the matter he had referred to President Richards had been passed to the Commission.”
In response, according to the account of the chairman, Gordon informed Rowley that the matter could not possibly be before the Commission since the Commission did not have a fully- appointed board.
“I reminded Dr Rowley that it is not the practice of the Commission to disclose the matters which are before the Commission,” Gordon states. “Even more significantly it was pointed out that the four (4) new appointments to the Commission had not as yet been made by President Carmona. While non-policy day to day operations continue to be addressed by the Commission, until the new Commissioners are appointed and sworn in new matters cannot be addressed until at least a quorum exists. The matter which he had referred to former President Richards is not therefore before the Integrity Commission.”
Rowley did not respond to several calls and messages yesterday from Newsday.
In Parliament yesterday morning at the end of a marathon two-day debate of a Parliament motion to approve increasing State spending, Moonilal had called on Rowley to clarify the matter.
Speaking at about 7.41 am, when Rowley was not in the chamber, the Government Whip said, “Had the member been around, I wanted to confront him and ask him the question: did he on May 15, 2013, meet at the home of a high-ranking official of the Integrity Commission? And what was the purpose of that meeting? What was the purpose of a meeting at the home of a high-ranking member of the Integrity Commission?”
Moonilal noted Rowley had in May, “declared that he did not have information on certain matters” relating to the operations of the Commission.
During a motion of no-confidence he brought against the Government on May 20, Rowley produced materials which he said documented emails between high officials of the Government. Though Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar referred the emails to the Police Service, Rowley questioned the competence of the Police Service to handle the probe and called for an Integrity Commission investigation.
Moonilal yesterday said, “Mr Speaker, it is a very dangerous thing when an Opposition Leader would trek to the private residence of persons who hold high office in a fiercely independent Constitutional body.” The Whip queried, “whether or not it is proper to be fraternising in that way” and said for the Opposition Leader to hold, “secret discussions at the home of a high-level official of the Integrity Commission” would have implications.
“If what I am asking is true, the Opposition Leader stands accused of not only undermining his own argument in Parliament, but also the integrity of the Parliament itself,” Moonilal said. “He disappeared through the back-door before he could answer here.”
On May 15 there would have been only one Commissioner, Gordon, the chairman, since the term of office of the other Commissioners had expired in March.
The issue of the purported emails produced by Rowley and referred to the Commission by Richards in March, punctuated the Parliament debate.
Early yesterday morning, Speaker Wade Mark stopped Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald from referring to the matter, saying it was before the Committee of Privileges. Also, Local Government Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan, in his contribution said Rowley’s email allegations will backfire against him.