Commissions consider open meetings

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The heads of two new
constitutionally created commissions recently said they would consider holding
at least some of their meetings in open public forums.  

A third commission, the Human
Rights Commission, has decided that its meetings will not generally be open to
the public.

The chairs of the Constitutional Commission
and the Commission for Standards in Public Life also acknowledged that there
would be some difficulties in hosting all of their meetings in public.

The issue has come to the fore
again following statements made last week by Attorney General Sam Bulgin.

Mr. Bulgin indicated it would be
easier to police for potential corruption among the country’s various appointed
boards and commissions if those entities held open public meetings.

A recent review of all boards,
commissions and committees in the Cayman Islands done by the Caymanian Compass
found that just four of the approximately 115 appointed bodies hold open
meetings.

Constitutional Commission Chairman
Pastor Al Ebanks said his three-person commissioner hadn’t formally discussed
the idea of holding open meetings, but he said he believed it wasn’t an unrealistic
expectation.

“I don’t necessarily say we’ll have
an objection,” Mr. Ebanks said. “I think there are some matters we may want to
discuss obviously privately, but I think, in general, the operations of the
commission – I personally, as chairman, would have no objection to many of our
meetings being held in public.”

Pastor Ebanks stressed that those
were his personal views only.

Commission for Standards in Public
Life Chairwoman Karin Thompson said the very nature of her group would lend
itself toward open meetings.

The commission was formed as an
independent body to monitor standards of ethical conduct within government and
public authorities, establish procedures for the awarding of public contracts,
and to investigate breaches of established anti-corruption standards.

“It is clear that by its very nature the meetings of
the Commissions for Standards in Public Life should be as open and accessible
to all members of the public as possible,” Mrs. Thompson said.

Human Rights Commission Chairman
Richard Coles said his group would post minutes of their meetings on the
commission’s website.

“The decision to generally hold
closed meetings was taken to preserve confidentiality of complainants’ details
that will be discussed during the…meetings,” Mr. Coles said.

Both Mr. Ebanks and Mrs. Thompson
said that it was the intention of their committees to post minutes for each
meeting held on a website. That site had not been established by press time,
but commissions secretariat manager Deborah Bodden said she was hopeful the
site would go live soon.

Mrs. Thompson also noted a problem
facing all of the relatively small constitutionally created commissions if they
wish to hold open meetings – available space.

“The boardroom facilities currently provided to the Commission was only
designed to accommodate the members and support staff,” she said.

The same issue was raised in the Legislative Assembly years ago.

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, 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 locations, simply to
accommodate members of the public who wanted to attend. That would incur additional
costs, he said.

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Mr. Ebanks
Photo: File
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