No affordable housing charges coming
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced last Thursday that no charges would arise out of the three-and-a-half-year investigation into possible crimes involving Grand Cayman’s Affordable Housing Initiative.
The decision not to file charges came after a ruling on the matter by an independent UK Senior Queens Counsel, who had examined the case file and other evidence.
‘The ruling states that there is insufficient evidence to lay any charges against those involved,’ an RCIPS press release stated. ‘The ruling further recommends that the investigation now be closed.’
The RCIPS investigation followed a forensic investigation conducted by the Auditor General’s Office shortly after the People’s Progressive Movement took power in May 2005.
At the centre of the investigation was whether former Housing Minister Frank McField had committed any crimes in his role as chairman of the National Housing and Community Development Trust, as it was called during his administration.
Mr. McField was unaware of the decision to lay charges in the matter when contacted by the Caymanian Compass Thursday. In fact, Mr. McField said his attorney Clyde Allen had been told by a crown counsel that charges would in fact be laid.
Although he said he felt a sense of vindication by the announcement, Mr. McField said the cloud of suspicion that has hung over him because of the investigation had taken its toll.
‘It is welcome news, but at the same time, I have lived knowing that there was now real basis for the investigation,’ he said.
‘I had to live with this. My family had to live with this. We knew where we stood, but the public was not aware. They had to wait until the end of the investigation.
‘Hopefully they know now I am not this horrible, corrupt person and that basically I was just trying to provide accommodations for people who seriously needed accommodation.’
The long length of the investigation created problems for Mr. McField and his family and that it was a contributing factor to the failure of the restaurant Ernesto’s, in which he had ownership.
‘It definitely hurt my businesses,’ he said. ‘It hurt my wife’s business, too.’
Mr. McField said he was glad the investigation is over.
‘I thought it was something that as long as it went on, it discredited me,’ he said. ‘It discredited me in the eyes of the public and it discredited me in the eyes of the police.’
Mr. McField had two scraps with police since 2005, both leading to convictions and fines, one for $2,300 and one for $100.
‘I have always felt my problems with the police have been partially a result of this temporary discrediting of my character.’
However, with regard to the officers investigating the affordable housing matter, Mr. McField said they acted with professionalism.
‘I am satisfied that the police, in the way they did their searches and the way they dealt with me, kept politics out of the picture.’
Mr. McField said the whole investigation, which he termed a ‘witch hunt’ as far back as June 2005, was politically motivated.
‘I know Caymanians like to believe their politicians are corrupt,’ he said. ‘It’s the easiest thing for them to believe. If they hear ‘Dr. Frank is corrupt’, they want to believe it. It gave the PPM a good [campaign] platform.’
Mr. McField said he hopes whichever politicians end up with power after the upcoming May elections, they don’t instigate ‘spiteful and vindictive’ investigations into former political opponents.
‘I hope they don’t fall into that trap.’
In the case involving the affordable housing initiative, part of the investigation concerned a company called Staunch Ltd., which received contracts from the NHCDT to build affordable homes.
Mr. McField said he committed no crimes in that choice.
‘If you’re talking about politicians favouring one employer over another for a contract, I would agree there is a subjective and objective element in that respect. But it could be the contracts are given to expedite a project or make it more feasible. It doesn’t mean it is done for the sake of dishonesty or greed.’
Mr. McField said he still drives through the affordable housing sites in West Bay and Windsor Village quite often. He said they look like neighbourhoods, particularly the one in West Bay.
‘I was just up there about four weeks ago,’ he said. ‘I don’t really stop and get out, I just drive through.’
Regardless, Mr. McField accepts that mistakes were made in the project and said there are some things he would do differently if he could do it over.
‘First of all, I would build [the homes] from different materials.’
He also said if he would have had better management of the project.
‘And I would make sure Hurricane Ivan never hit,’ he said, laughing.