Minister Bodden’s profane tirade shocks civil service staff

According to multiple accounts shared with the Cayman Compass, Health Minister Osbourne Bodden on Wednesday, Dec. 10, engaged in a screaming and profanity-laced encounter with his ministry’s chief officer, Jennifer Ahearn, who was serving as acting deputy governor at the time.

The incident was so intense that a security guard was called to the scene. Among the dozens of government staffers who overheard Mr. Bodden’s cursing and berating his chief officer, several spoke to the Compass on the condition of anonymity.

The commotion began at approximately 12:20 p.m. last Wednesday when Ms. Ahearn entered Minister Bodden’s office on the fifth floor of the Government Administration Building in George Town to speak to him concerning a matter she had emailed him about earlier in the day.

Both Mr. Bodden and Ms. Ahearn were contacted for comment. Ms. Ahearn said it would “not be appropriate” for her to comment under the circumstances. Mr. Bodden also declined to comment on the story late Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after Ms. Ahearn entered the minister’s office, approximately 20 to 30 people on the same floor clearly heard what was described as “extremely voluminous bellowing” coming from the minister’s office. The fifth floor of the building is an “open” office plan, and walls between the closed-door offices circling the main cubicle area are fairly thin.

Even so, according to a report of what occurred based on the statements of the acting ministry chief officer and a number of ministry staff members present at the time, the “bellowing” was to the extent that staffers “couldn’t believe it was the minister.” The encounter left a number of staff members stunned and has significantly affected the office’s ability to continue its work, according to several civil servants who were there at the time.

The description of the events, which was given in writing to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson on Friday, Dec. 12, indicated the following staff recollections of what was shouted at Ms. Ahearn during the brief closed-door meeting.

The statements included: “You aren’t even Caymanian, you are like a piece of f%&king driftwood.”

“You know that I can make your life a living hell.”

“Get out of my face. Get out of my f&%king office. Get out of my f&%king office now.”

According to the description of events that was given to Mr. Manderson, Minister Bodden’s statements were referred to as discriminatory, profane and threatening. The shouting was clearly heard by staff members of other government ministries that share the same office floor and in the words of one staffer “if you couldn’t hear [the shouting], you were deaf.”

Civil servants on the office floor indicated that two staff members present during the incident were in tears and that another was shaking so badly the person had to sit down. The shouting grew so intense that a security guard was called, and went with two health ministry staff members to the office door to check on the situation. At that point, Ms. Ahearn was said to have walked out of the office, looking pale, according to staffers’ descriptions.

“The treatment of this ministry’s highest-ranking civil servant by the minister and subsequent lack of disciplinary action to date [as of the Dec. 12 writing to Mr. Manderson] has shaken up all the staff of the ministry,” the description of the incident sent to Mr. Manderson noted.

Mr. Manderson was contacted several times on Monday and Tuesday about what occurred. He indicated he was very concerned about the matter and it was understood by the Compass that meetings had been scheduled this week to address it.

In a joint statement issued to the Compass late Monday by the deputy governor and Premier Alden McLaughlin, Mr. Manderson said: “I was contacted by Chief Officer Ahearn concerning this matter and immediately raised the matter with the Honourable Premier in accordance with the constitution and Public Service Management Law.”

The deputy governor said he is “confident” the matter was viewed “seriously” by Mr. McLaughlin, who is ultimately responsible for government ministers under the Cayman Islands Constitution Order [2009], along with the territory’s governor. Mr. Manderson said there is a “plan in place to address the issue going forward.”

Mr. McLaughlin’s comments did not indicate what action his administration might take to address what happened on Dec. 10.

“I do not believe that it is either helpful or appropriate for government to discuss personnel misunderstandings in the press,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Sometimes, when you have strong personalities who are passionate about their work, differences in opinion will occur. There was such a variance of opinion between Minister Bodden and his chief officer, for which the minister has already apologized in writing to his chief officer and the ministry staff.”

The apology came in the form of an email Mr. Bodden sent to ministry staff the day after the office incident, Dec. 11.

“The public can rest assured that the matter is being addressed to ensure that the important work of the Ministry of Health, Sports and Culture is not compromised and the several projects being undertaken by the ministry remain on target,” Premier McLaughlin said.

A different impression was in the incident description sent to Mr. Manderson on Dec. 12 by civil service staff.

“The staff of this ministry is simply not able to get past this incident and continue to work as usual,” the document indicated.

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  1. Passion is no substitute for knowledge. Compassion and knowledge in unison are the cornerstone of successful outcomes in healthcare. What is the root cause of the disagreement is the key question here which remains undisclosed to the public at this time.

  2. BELIEVE IT OR NOT: The Legislative has proven to become The Devil’s Play Ground for many. It is as if 75% who has entered its doors change to a tune of I am the man now, and I can do as I please. Most ignore their constituencies who gave them the opportunity to be bigger than life, becoming so high and mighty that you will hear persons say, they do not speak to them anymore, they do not answer emails, they hide dodge, tell lies, and make numerous excuses. Most times in life we decide to forget where we came from and how we got where we are. If you observe very well, many of them that hold these positions, begin to talk down to others as soon as they become an MLA or Minister; allowing power and money to change them from being humble and patient and with others, only to become boisterous and uncaring.
    You will hear many old folks using these words Life is like a circle what goes around comes around. Today is yours, but tomorrow is promised to no man. Also it is very true, that while many may take on the attitude of being mightier than God, they do not realize someone else is watching. When you allow the feeling of Power to take you away from the word you will eventually fail. My comments are made to be general, and no specific aim at anyone person; however I do hope it hits a home run to what I am exactly talking about.

  3. Hubris! Thats the technical word for what you describe Ms Vargas, the word comes from ancient Greece, so its nothing new! A small amount of power, or authority, puts you onto a whole new plane and you believe that you are greater than you really are, in some cases, you might even get confused about whose money you are using, say, to gamble on the slots. Most of them get it, a really bad case was Tony Blair, he found the law a real nuisance when he wanted to back his good buddy George W!

  4. Where I come from, this man would be immediately suspended from his job pending further investigation and I have a lot of money that the punishment would fit the crime. He might become the piece of driftwood.

    If the employee who is apparently an expat said something of that nature to the Honourable Minister, her ticket to leave the country would be available at Expedia.

    But this is Cayman where the yardstick is pretty much different than if you are Caymanian. I am a betting man and I feel pretty secure in saying that the broom is already in hand to sweep this incident under the carpet like its done each and every time.

  5. There is a presentation on (ideas worth spreading) Hidden cameras that film injustice …
    In the internet age public exposure is more effective than anything else to fight injustice. Everyone should carry it, the prices are more than affordable.
    Trivializing and excusing despicable behavior of a public official is unacceptable.
    By the way, what
    happened few weeks ago when an article and comments on ministry of health suddenly disappeared midday? Was someone at Compass promised a living hell?

    ***Editor’s note: In regard to the Nov. 24 article that was removed from the website — that story misrepresented Minister Bodden’s remarks on the idea of banning cigarettes in the Cayman Islands (something Minister Bodden had never seriously considered advocating for). The Compass ran a correction in the Nov. 25 newspaper on Page 2.***

  6. The behavior is outrageous for the office he holds. It’s just a matter of time before he injures someone. He should be mentally evaluated. Mr Manderson should realize the potential danger he poses. This office is too important for someone to abuse it, and terrify the employees. If he doesn’t resign from his job we will have no effective health services.

  7. People’s true colors really come out when they lose their tempers. The bigotry this displays is astounding and clearly goes to show what people in high places think of the Non Caymanians on the island. This attitude is passed down to the population when politicians instigate these feeling to get votes. I have now lost what little respect I had for him, there’s nothing I hate more then prejudice, no many what color it is. Any Non Caymanian that works for or with him should now be very concerned. Referring to visitors to Cayman as driftwood whether they be Expats, Tourists or Long Term Visitors is very derogatory and won’t be forgotten however he will most likely get a lot of points from the Population of Caymanians that share his feelings. And you wonder why visitors and expats tend to stay to themselves.

  8. But what exactly was the root cause of this explosion?

    People don’t go off the handle like this for no reason.

    I am reminded though of the lovely story of how the fairy got on top of the Christmas tree.

    Apparently it was a few days before Christmas and Santa Claus was having a very bad day.
    The reindeer were sick, the elves were on strike and Mrs. Claus had burnt the dinner.

    It was at that moment that the fairy showed up dragging the Christmas tree behind her.
    She asked Santa, Where would you like me to put this tree?
    And Santa replied…..

  9. The Premier needs to get some very good legal advice on this matter.

    The Ministers comments may well leave the department in an ‘exposed’ position with regard to litigation. In reality there may be few options available.

  10. For the sake of the community in which we live on this island I hope that there is further clarification of this situation. I quit listening to the talk radio because of the negativity and xenophobia. Unfortunately there are many with these views and opinions.

  11. For those who didn’t get my Santa story, the message is that sometimes even the nicest people are having a really bad day.

    Then even the slightest comment can cause an explosion that is totally unmerited.

    That is why we really need to know what actually caused this ruckus.

  12. For those who didn’t get my Santa story, the message is that sometimes even the nicest people are having a really bad day.

    Then even the slightest comment can cause an explosion that is totally unmerited.

    That is why we really need to know what actually caused this ruckus.

  13. Michael Davis you say there no excuse for making derogatory racist remarks at anyone but you yourself are guilty of prejudice as displayed in your earlier comment and I quote The bigotry this displays is astounding and clearly goes to show what people in high places think of the Non Caymanians on the island. This story is about what one man ,Minister Bodden ,allegedly said to one woman Ms Ahearn,yet you have managed to turn it into a generalized statement on what people in high places (in Cayman) think of non Caymanians on the island.This is a very bigoted and biased statement on your part and you should apologize to those Caymanian people in high places.

  14. Mr Leon, have you considered that you may be wrong in your assumptions of Mr Michael? His comments were in general, to which I truly believe that every foreigner and many Caymanians reading the comments made by Mr Bodden would have raised eyebrows. No one knows what Mr Michael felt and no one know what he has experienced as a foreigner, so there is no need to apologize to anyone.
    I am a true Caymanian to the bone, and I Know exactly what go on in this place. Trust me on that.