Several high-ranking members of Cayman Islands governing boards told a commission of enquiry last week that many of those boards have no written policies on the handling of internal documents.
At least one board member informed Commissioner Sir Richard Tucker that such a policy had been developed only within the last few years. Two others said their boards had no written procedures to determine whether members should keep records they receive in the course of their duties confidential.
Cayman Airways Board Chairperson Angelyn Hernandez told the commission that before she arrived, the airline’s board of directors had no specific policy about retention and confidentiality of documents. Ms Hernandez said all board members are now required to sign confidentiality agreements.
Port Authority Board Chairman Wayne Panton said that his board members are not asked to sign any confidentiality agreements and are not asked to return documents after resigning. Mr. Panton told the commission that ordinary duties require board directors to act in the interest of the company.
Turtle Farm Board Chairman Joel Walton told the commission he agreed that there was nothing inherently confidential about the Turtle Farm’s business, since as far as he was aware, there weren’t too many other commercial operations in the world that breed turtles.
Mr. Walton said while he was aware of other confidentially rules, which bind civil servants, he said the board had no such regulations for its private members and trusted them to act ‘in the best national interests of the Cayman Islands.’
It appeared after the testimony presented that none of the boards at the time Mr. Clifford served on them had any specific policies or guidelines for handling documents.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford has been accused of improperly, and possibly illegally, taking Ministry of Tourism documents related to several government-run entities including the Port, Cayman Airways and the Turtle Farm.
His attorneys have argued during the hearings that any documents Mr. Clifford did reveal to the press after he resigned as permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism in 2004 involved matters of public interest.
Lawyers for Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Mr. Clifford violated civil servant secrecy rules that state that government employees are considered to have breached those rules if they ‘communicate a code word, pass word, sketch, plan model, article, note, document or information to any person other than a person to whom he is authorised to communicate it.’
The code, known as the declaration of secrecy, also states that the civil servant has breached their duty if he ‘retains the sketch, plan model article, note or document in his possession or control when he has no right to retain it.’
Mr. Clifford’s attorneys have said their client was right to release the documents because he was acting as a whistle blower — or reporting wrong doing.
Cayman does have a law that protects the rights of whistle blowers, but that measure does not take effect until next year. It was not in place in 2004, when Mr. Clifford is alleged to have removed and revealed government documents.