Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush wrote a letter to Governor Stuart Jack last week asking him to investigate whether Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford took confidential files when he left the civil service and gave them to the media.
In the three-page letter dated 27 September, Mr. Bush states the basis for conducting the investigation were recent remarks made in the Legislative Assembly and a series of newspaper reports.
‘Further information is now coming to light that substantiates my complaints, made verbally and in writing to then Governor Bruce Dinwiddy, that Mr. Clifford had removed confidential files from the Ministry,’ Mr. Bush wrote.
Specifically, Mr. Bush points to the lead story of Cayman Net News on 26 September in which publisher Desmond Seales revealed that Mr. Clifford was his newspaper’s previously unknown anonymous source of ‘hard copies of minutes and other documents’ used to support ‘unflattering stories on the UDP and Mr. Bush in particular’ written prior to the 2005 General Elections.
‘It would appear that these documents remain in the possession of Cayman Net News and its publisher, even while Mr. Clifford continues to assert that he did not remove any files, or that whatever he took were his own files.’
Mr. Clifford has admitted before that he took files. However, he has stated they contained copies of minutes of meetings of government boards on which he sat, and that he was entitled to take and retain them.
In his letter to Governor Jack, Mr. Bush states that Mr. Clifford twisted the information he gave to Cayman Net News ‘to suit his political ambitions’.
Mr. Bush contends that giving the documents to the media was a breach of the civil service secrecy oath.
The previous investigation into the matter by former Governor Dinwiddy was also questioned by Mr. Bush in the letter to Mr. Jack.
‘The record shows that my request to the Governor for the matter to be investigated was treated in a less than thorough manner; that unbeknownst to [me], Mr. Dinwiddy instructed Mrs. Gloria McField-Nixon – a very close ‘friend’ of Mr. Clifford’s – to investigate the matter and that her report cleared him.’
Mr. Bush states in the letter that Mrs. McField-Nixon did not seek the comment of himself or Mr. Clifford’s personal assistant/secretary, the person with whom he worked closest.
‘…this staff member provided an affidavit attesting to the removal of files by Mr. Clifford…,’ Mr. Bush wrote. He also enclosed a copy of the affidavit in his letter to the Governor.
‘I would have thought that if an investigation was being carried out, that the staff member’s affidavit would have been pertinent, if the goal had been to uncover the truth and to put the matter to rest.’
Responding to the Mr. Bush’s request of the Governor, Mr. Clifford pointed out that he had requested Governor Dinwiddy to investigate the matter himself more than two years ago.
‘Mr. Bush has resurrected a story that is over two years old, re-packaged it and is trying to sell it as a news story,’ he said.
‘What I had to say about the UDP government during the election was said from the public platforms and the country knows that. That is no secret.’
Mr. Clifford said the irregularities he exposed during the campaign have since been confirmed by a series of reports from the Auditor General’s office.
‘Mr. Bush’s position on this matter is very interesting, but not surprising,’ he said. ‘He is suggesting that had the UDP government not been exposed, they would have won the election and that somehow they are the victims.’
Mr. Clifford did not answer questions about whether he had supplied Cayman Net News with copies of board of directors’ minutes, Cabinet extracts or other Cabinet papers.
‘I am not going to comment at this point on anything relating to Cayman Net News as I am considering the possibility of legal action against them,’ he said.
With regard to the comment in Mr. Bush’s letter to the Governor that Gloria McField-Nixon was ‘a very close ‘friend’ of Mr. Clifford’s’, Mr. Clifford said the statement was a ‘new low’ for Mr. Bush.
‘His comments are mischievous and indicative of how Mr. Bush treats civil servants,’ he said. ‘I can deal with Mr. Bush’s repeated attacks on me, but I take exception to him dragging civil servants, whether he perceives them to be his supporters or opposers into this issue.’
The Governor’s Office confirmed Mr. Bush’s letter had been received. However, what action the Governor will take, if any, in response to the letter has not yet been decided.
‘The Governor is still considering the matter,’ said Andy Holbrook of the Governor’s Office.