Cayman boards act behind closed doors

Just four out
of roughly 115 government boards or committees in the Cayman
Islands hold their meetings in public.

The 115 separate
government boards and committees, a figure which doesn’t include subcommittees,
have more than 750 people as members.

Two of open
committee hearings occur in the Legislative Assembly, with members of the
public being able to attend most of the deliberations of Finance Committee and
the Public Accounts Committee. The other two typically open meetings are the Liquor
Licensing Board meetings of Grand Cayman and
Cayman Brac/Little Cayman.

The other
111-odd boards and committees operating in the Cayman Islands typically hold
their hearings in closed quarters, with only members, support staff, and – sometimes
– invited guests allowed to come along.

Information
about all of Cayman’s governing boards was not always readily available until 4
January, when the Freedom of Information Law (2007) required all government entities,
statutory authorities and government-owned companies to publish details about
their operations in a scheme that was released as part of the government’s
gazettes.

That 1,400+
page document contained at least some information on all of the appointed
boards and committees under government’s purview.

However, some
of that information remains incomplete, and the Information Commissioner’s
Office is reviewing it to make sure everything that’s supposed to be there is
accessible.

The Freedom of
Information Law also allows, for the first time, members of the public to
formally request meeting minutes from various boards. Some boards have started
posting copies of meeting minutes on government websites as a proactive
measure, although the publication of that information sometimes lags a couple
months behind the meeting times.

University College of the Cayman Islands President Roy Bodden
believes that althought meeting minutes can be made public, residents should
not be allowed to sit in on the UCCI Board of Governors meetings themselves.

“I don’t
see where anyone’s interest would be served by that,” Mr. Bodden said.
“People should appreciate that very sensitive things are going on in these
board meetings.”

Cayman’s
Information, Communications and Technology Authority Managing Director David
Archbold – a member of the authority’s board – agreed that it’s probably not a
good idea for the “average Joe” to sit in there every two weeks.

The ICTA board
discusses matters of radio, TV, and telecom licensing, and is the authority
that decides who gets a public broadcaster’s licence in the Cayman
Islands.

“Most of
what we talk about is commercially sensitive information,” Mr. Archbold
said. “Any decisions taken that affect the general public are published on
our website.”

In Cayman
Brac, where there are six appointed boards and just one that is generally open
to the public, District Commissioner Ernie Scott said exceptions can be made if
the situation warrants.

For instance,
Mr. Scott noted that both the Development Control Board and the Sister Islands
Agricultural Show Committee frequently invite those who are participating in
events, or those individuals who may be affected by board decisions.

He also notes
that the Sister Islands Emergency Committee has separate subcommittees that
will invite members of the public to come and give advice, when needed.

For other Cayman Islands boards and committees, the problem isn’t always
that the entities don’t want members of the public to attend. Often members
have said they just don’t have the space.

The issue has
been addressed before by Legislative Assembly members, but a final resolution
has never been reached.

In July 2007,
then-Opposition Leader (now Premier) McKeeva Bush put forth a private member’s
motion in the LA asking that certain government-appointed boards, such as
Immigration-related boards, the Central Planning Authority and the Port
Authority, to be hold open meetings.

Then-Leader of
Government Business Kurt Tibbetts replied that such a move might be impractical.

Mr. Tibbetts
indicated that many of the boards included in Mr. Bush’s motion before the
house would be forced to move from their current locations, simply to accommodate
members of the public who wanted to attend. That would incur additional costs,
he said.

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