Releasing Tempura payoff amounts is ‘contempt’

Claiming it would land in contempt of court or face lawsuits, or both, the Cayman Islands Attorney General’s Chambers has refused to release the amounts paid to three individuals in settlements related to the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation.

The Cayman Compass filed an open records request on April 1 seeking only the monetary amounts paid to former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, former Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and retired RCIPS Inspector Burmon Scott in order to settle their respective claims against the government over the Tempura investigation.

Mr. Kernohan sued the government in 2009 claiming wrongful termination. Mr. Dixon was placed on required leave over the police corruption probe and was later cleared of all charges. Mr. Scott, who was arrested but never charged, also sued the government over the case.

The newspaper’s request sought only the cash paid to all three men, not details of various settlement agreements.

Solicitor General Jacqueline Wilson, responding on behalf of the attorney general’s chambers to the Freedom of Information request, gave separate reasons in each case why the government could not release the amounts paid to the three men.

In Mr. Kernohan’s case, the settlement agreement formed part of a court order, Mrs. Wilson said, and was outside the purview of the FOI Law.

“A breach of an order of the Grand Court could result in contempt of court proceedings being brought against the Crown,” she wrote in response to the request.

In Mr. Dixon’s case, Mrs. Wilson revealed that the amount paid to the former deputy commissioner was not as a result of a lawsuit he had filed, but rather as a part of the terms upon which Mr. Dixon retired from the civil service.

After being placed on required leave with full pay in March 2008, Mr. Dixon continued on that status until his retirement more than three years later.

“We have … considered Mr. Dixon’s right to privacy in this case, particularly in light of the fact that the monies paid to him were part of his retirement package,” Mrs. Wilson wrote. “We are … of the view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.”

Again, the response letter makes reference to disclosure of the “terms of agreement” between Mr. Dixon and the government, but the FOI request made by the Compass sought only the amount Mr. Dixon was paid.

Finally, Mr. Scott’s information was also withheld because “the record you seek is exempt from disclosure … as disclosure would amount to an actionable breach of confidence.”

The Compass recently reported that government had spent more than $3 million fighting off legal actions and open records requests related to Tempura, inclusive of a $1.275 million lawsuit settlement paid to Grand Court Judge Alexander Henderson over his wrongful arrest in connection with the investigation in September 2008. The $3 million does not include whatever was paid to Mr. Kernohan, Mr. Dixon or Mr. Scott.

Former Auditor General Dan Duguay, reported that the initial investigation between September 2007 and January 2009 spent $5.7 million. He also estimated another $1.1 million was spent between February and June 2009 on the continuing case. Subsequent investigations and court trials related to Operation Tempura and its spin-off Operation Cealt have never been assessed for costs.

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