Letter: Airports Authority board warned of ‘abuse of office’

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s board of directors was warned of “potentially serious issues” including abuse of office allegations under the local Anti-Corruption Law, if claims made by the authority’s former acting chief executive officer in relation to his attempts to dismiss an employee were correct.

The warning came in a Dec. 4, 2013 letter written by authority lawyers at the Ritch & Conolly law firm to board chairman Kirkland Nixon. The letter was made public Friday by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush who formally tabled the record in the Legislative Assembly.

The letter reviewed the ongoing situation, discussed publicly in recent weeks in the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly, with an airports authority information technology manager who had been accused of using a government computer to access hundreds of pornography websites while at work during July 2013.

Former acting airports chief executive Kerith McCoy had informed board members in November 2013 that he intended to offer the employee in question a “chance to resign.”

According to the Dec. 4, 2013 letter: “[Deputy Chairman of the board] Mr. [Thom] Guyton told Mr. McCoy that any decision to dismiss [the employee] would not be supported by the board and further that any appeal by [the employee] would be upheld on the basis of insufficient evidence and that the dismissal would be disproportionate.

“He further informs us that, after that [November] meeting, [Mr. Nixon] confirmed to Mr. McCoy that it would be disproportionate to dismiss [the employee] and that [Mr. Nixon] had been approached by [his] ‘associates’ who requested that the board members intervene in the disciplinary process in order to reinstate [the employee].” The airports authority attorneys further advised the board: “If Mr. McCoy’s account set out above is accurate, it could give rise to a number of potentially serious issues including … 1. Irregularities in the disciplinary process and any subsequent appeal; 2. Breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the affected members of the board; 3. A possible allegation of abuse of office in the context of section 17 of the Anti-Corruption Law.”

Section 17 of the law reads: “A public officer or member of the Legislative Assembly who does or directs to be done, in abuse of the authority of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of another commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of two years.

“If the act … is done or directed to be done for purposes of a loan, reward, advantage or other benefit, such person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years.”

The attorneys could not advise the board as to whether Mr. McCoy’s statements were accurate in the Dec. 4 letter.

It was also noted in the document that Mr. McCoy would be on vacation for most of December, but that his position at the authority was uncertain given the relatively recent appointment of the new airports board.

“I should be grateful if you would clarify whether the board’s decision is that Mr. McCoy is to continue to act as acting chief executive officer,” the attorney for Ritch & Conolly noted.

Two months later, it was announced that Mr. McCoy had retired after holding the acting post for about a year. It was revealed in Legislative Assembly that he was paid an undisclosed settlement amount upon leaving. The reasons for that payment were not known.

The authority later took out an advertisement in the Cayman Compass explaining some of its “organizational changes” and indicating that the acting CEO position would rotate among senior staff until a permanent replacement was found.