The potential conflicts of interest of National Roads Authority Board of Directors member Steve McField have been topics of serious conversation among his fellow board members, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Law.
According to minutes of board meetings, Mr. McField’s failure to disclose his interests negatively affected the auditor general’s evaluation of the authority’s financial statements for the 2010/11 fiscal year.
Additionally, the minutes reflect discussions by board members of Mr. McField’s role as legal representative of the board in relation to attempts to have an injunction lifted that has prevented the expansion of Bobby Thompson Way.
In July 2012, the Caymanian Compass requested the minutes of the board meetings that took place during the previous year. In September, the authority released copies of the minutes with extensive redactions, including removing references to Mr. McField’s identity in relation to those potential conflicts of interest. Following an internal review, on 25 January the authority released copies of the minutes with only a handful of redactions. On 8 February, the authority released copies of the minutes with no redactions. Mr. McField directed the Compass’ requests for comment to the board.
During the board’s 8 November, 2011, meeting, Board Chairman Colford Scott “informed members that Director S. McField did not file his ‘Disclosure of Interest’ as requested by the auditors. This might technically apply to Director [Barry] Martinez, who has not been attending meetings. The chairman is to discuss this matter of non-disclosure of interest with the minister re: future audits, as it affects the final audits of the NRA”.
The auditor general’s report on the authority for the 2010/11 fiscal year is dated 24 October, 2011, and was tabled in the Legislative Assembly 29 August, 2012, making it available to the public.
In the report, Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick cites the international accounting standard requiring the identification and disclosure of an entity’s transactions with “related parties”.
He wrote, “I was unable to determine the entity’s compliance with this standard due to the absence of related party representations by all members of the board of directors.”
Mr. Swarbrick’s opinion was that the authority had complied with financial reporting standards for the year ending 30 June, 2011, “except for the deficiency in the related party disclosure”.
Mr. Scott told the Compass that all board members have now been filing the requested disclosure forms and that the auditor general had given the authority an unqualified opinion for the 2011/12 fiscal year. Mr. Scott said he understood the latest report had been given to the ministry but did not know when it would be tabled in the House.
Bobby Thompson Way
Mr. McField was not present at the 8 November, 2011, meeting where the non-disclosure of interests was discussed. On that date, the board had been scheduled to hear an update from Mr. McField on efforts to lift an injunction regarding Bobby Thompson Way and Linford Pierson Highway.
In March 2012, the authority’s then-Managing Director Brian Tomlinson said the injunction, which was obtained by adjacent property owners in 2001, stops the authority from building a larger roundabout at that intersection and effectively prevents the planned widening of Bobby Thompson Way to four lanes.
In addition to missing the 8 November, 2011, board meeting, Mr. McField was absent from the subsequent 13 December, 2011, and 17 January, 2012, meetings.
According to the minutes of the 13 December, 2011, meeting, “Director S. McField who is to provide the update was absent from this meeting and it was suggested that he be removed from dealing with this issue. The motion was moved by Director [Darrell] Rankine and seconded by Director Mrs. [Pearlina] McGaw-Lumsden for [Managing Director Tomlinson] to seek the services of another legal counsel for this case. [Mr. Tomlinson] is to also determine the status of the first contract with Director McField before proceeding with the other legal counsel. The motion was approved and accepted by the board.”
According to the minutes of the 17 January, 2012, meeting, “[Mr. Tomlinson] informed that a letter was sent (16 December, 2011) by registered mail to Director S McField requesting him to provide an update in three days time. It was suggested that a copy of the letter be delivered to the offices of Director S McField as well as e-mailed to him.
“It was noted that this appears to be the second case of nonperformance by this director and the issue needs to be addressed now. The suggestion was made for the NRA to seek legal advice on this director’s possible conflict of interest in his acting on behalf of the NRA.”
Mr. McField attended the next meeting held 14 February, 2012, responded to the December 2011 letter and provided an update on the injunction. According to the minutes, “it was suggested that new engineering notes would be needed to start the process all over again in an effort to have the injunction lifted”.
According to the minutes, “It seems that there has been a serious lack of communication between Director McField and the board. However, if so desired by the board, Director McField stated that he had no problems continuing the process. It is still believed and agreed by members that there is a possible conflict of interest in this matter and it was suggested paying someone else to do the work.”
The board’s next meeting took place 13 March, 2012. According to the minutes, Mr. Scott “requested the NRA team to do a revised drawing of the roundabout. The ministry [of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture] is expected to respond with input from the legal department on the issue of Director S. McField continuing to represent the NRA in regards to the lifting of this injunction.”
During the meeting, the board approved a motion to release about $1 million in funds being held by the authority for the project back to the ministry.
At the board’s next meeting 17 April, 2012, Mr. Scott asked the authority to come up with “a more reasonable design” for the roundabout and present it to the board at its next meeting.
According to the minutes, “It is the board’s decision that Director S. McField no longer represents the NRA in this matter and it will in future be handled by the legal department. The NRA and the ministry (DAWLA) will compile all relevant documents re: the request for the lifting of the injunction and present them to the legal department. “It was queried if there was a timeline set for attempting to get the injunction lifted and the response was to possibly have it done before the tenure of the current board expires in June 2012.”
Mr. Scott told the Compass the injunction has still not been lifted and that the government’s legal department is working on the matter.
The Compass has submitted specific questions in writing to the roads authority about Mr. McField’s contract.