A Cayman Islands lawmaker and the former chief investigator involved in the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation are both taking on the British Territory’s governor over what they claim is a veil of secrecy being placed over the corruption probe.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick recently told the Cayman Compass that she had not ruled out the possibility of another inquiry into the two year, $10 million-plus investigation that became known as Operation Tempura. However, the governor noted that now is not the time for such a formal review, with a lawsuit involving the matter still pending before the courts.
The lawsuit involves a wrongful termination claim against former Tempura senior investigating officer Martin Bridger made by ex-Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan. Mr. Kernohan also sued the Cayman Islands government, but recently agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed sum.
The lack of disclosure irked North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who spoke publicly about it during his contribution to the 2014/15 budget debate last week.
“For the governor to come [to the Legislative Assembly] and remind us of the need for good governance and transparency to develop the trust of the people that we represent, while employing every legal and administrative tool at great expense to the very people we represent to maintain the absolute opaqueness, ultimate secrecy and titanium-quality lid on Operation Tempura, this in my view is a bit disingenuous,” Mr. Miller said.
“I cannot inform [my constituents] how much of their money [the government] paid Kernohan, because [my constituents] regard it as part of my responsibility as a representative to find out and let them know,” the North Side MLA continued. “Their position is, it’s their money that Cabinet and the government is spending and they have a right to know.”
The Compass filed an open records request for the total settlement amounts paid, not only to Mr. Kernohan, but to former RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and retired RCIPS Inspector Burmon Scott, who were both arrested during Operation Tempura. Mr. Dixon was charged with crimes for which he was ultimately acquitted, while Mr. Scott was never charged after spending 31 hours in police lock-up. The newspaper’s request sought only the cash paid to all three men, not details of various settlement agreements.
Claiming it would land in contempt of court or face lawsuits, or both, the Cayman Islands Attorney General’s Chambers refused to release the amounts paid to three individuals in settlements related to the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation.
In Mr. Kernohan’s case, the settlement agreement formed part of a court order, Solicitor General Jacqueline 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 Compass request.
The Compass is appealing the denial of the information’s release to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Mr. Bridger, abandoned by the Cayman Islands government to make his own defense against Mr. Kernohan’s lawsuit, said Saturday that he asked for permission to use confidential documents provided to him by former Governor Duncan Taylor during the Kernohan lawsuit proceedings. Among these records are included a $335,000 review related to Operation Tempura completed by U.K.-based attorney Benjamin Aina, QC – paid for by Cayman Islands taxpayers.
“In the Aina report, there are three key areas that I would like to use that relate directly to the [Cayman Islands] attorney general, [U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth advisor Larry] Covington and the Chief Justice [of the Cayman Islands],” Mr. Bridger said Saturday. “I asked specifically if I could just use those three pieces … and [Governor Kilpatrick] said no, I can’t.”
According to correspondence seen by the Compass, the governor’s office replied to Mr. Bridger’s query about using sections of the Aina report in his own defense in early April. The email noted that the report is still subject to an ongoing hearing before the information commissioner’s office made for various government records related to Operation Tempura and “should not be made public.”
In any case, it would ultimately be up to a trial judge to determine what information Mr. Bridger could use in court and what was inadmissible.
Whether Mr. Miller, the North Side MLA, was aware of the situation involving the Kernohan lawsuit against Mr. Bridger was unclear. However, Mr. Miller did make an offer to the former senior investigator in his speech to the Legislative Assembly last Thursday.
“I have a message for Mr. Bridger – put the documents in the windshield of my truck – it’s a black four-wheel drive Chevrolet Colorado 2005 – I will get them out, put them on my truck,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Bridger, who lives in the U.K., politely declined Mr. Miller’s offer on Saturday.
“I do not need yet another lawsuit filed against me by either your attorney general or [the] RCIPS,” he said. “I think that the people of the Cayman Islands have had enough of their money spent … on trying to prevent me from using documents for my defense of the Kernohan action and which will expose the truth of what occurred in relation to Operation Tempura.
“I share your desire for the [U.K. foreign office] and others to act in an open, transparent and ethical manner but, unfortunately, that is not happening.”