On Wednesday, Dec. 10, Minister Osbourne Bodden subjected Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn to a verbally abusive outburst that was so intense a Government Administration Building security guard was called to the scene. The incident was clearly overheard by 20 to 30 government employees.
A number of ministry staff members filed a report with the Deputy Governor describing in great detail (“F-words,” and all) what had taken place.
Over the past two weeks, the response from the Cayman Islands community has been nearly unanimous: Minister Bodden’s behavior, as described by multiple witnesses and contradicted by no one, is absolutely unacceptable. Hundreds of postings to local websites, including CaymanCompass.com, are almost universally condemnatory.
Last Friday, the Cayman Compass made the rare step of publishing an editorial across the top of the front page, declaring, “Minister Bodden must resign.”
Later that day, Premier Alden McLaughlin made a rare step of his own, rearranging Cabinet assignments so that he will now be working with Ms. Ahearn, and Minister Bodden will be working with Chief Officer Dorine Whittaker.
We fail to see how the Premier’s reshuffling in any way addresses the issue of Mr. Bodden’s behavior. In terms of political legerdemain, this was a particularly clumsy and transparent effort to change the subject.
What has been missing ever since Minister Bodden’s tirade became widely known is anyone in a high-profile position repudiating Minister Bodden’s abusive behavior and unmitigated bullying of a professional woman. Not one of Mr. Bodden’s Cabinet brethren has had the moral fortitude to speak out about his actions.
The Compass has reached out to many of Cayman’s leaders for their views or comments. Here’s what we have heard back:
Governor Helen Kilpatrick: No comment.
Premier Alden McLaughlin: No comment.
Minister Osbourne Bodden: No comment.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson: No comment.
Cayman Islands Civil Service Association President James Watler: No comment.
Gender Affairs Minister Tara Rivers: No comment.
Bodden Town MLA (Minister) Wayne Panton: No comment.
Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo: No comment.
Gender Affairs Councillor Winston Connolly: No comment.
Financial Services Councilor Roy McTaggart: No comment.
The “No comments” from the first five on the above list are the most disturbing — the first three (Governor Kilpatrick, Premier McLaughlin and Minister Bodden) because they are the only individuals with any actual power to address the situation; and the next two (Deputy Governor Manderson and Civil Service Association President Watler) because they, by the nature of their positions, should be advocating the most vociferously for the best interests of the victim, Ms. Ahearn.
Make no mistake: Silence in this instance equals tacit approval.
(Only two elected officials have stated publicly that Minister Bodden’s behavior was unacceptable — Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller. Additionally, Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden acknowledged that the situation was “most unfortunate.”)
Premier McLaughlin’s lateral relocation of Minister Bodden (who maintains responsibility for Cayman’s “Youth,” of all portfolios) isn’t just neutral; it’s negative — because it is cynically designed to deflect the conversation from the real issue at hand — Mr. Bodden’s behavior.
To compound matters, the Compass is hearing from multiple senior civil servants (whistleblowers by any definition) that they fear government reprisals for sharing what took place with friends, family and the media.
The overall message from the current government is clear: When Minister Bodden hurled profanities and threats at Chief Officer Ahearn, that was perfectly acceptable. What is not acceptable, however, is for any civil servant to talk about it, or for the media to report on it.