Mr. Bodden's behavior: When silence speaks volumes

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, 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.

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  1. I often take issue with Compass editorials, in fact violently so, but this time is an exception. The one among the top five that I find most disturbing is actually the last. The President of the Civil Service Association should be the one above all else who is speaking out on this issue — that is his role. His comment about cockroach staying out of rooster fight is a big part of the problem we face in the civil service. Who else should be speaking out on a matter of professional respect for a fellow civil servant?

    I suspect that Ms Ahearn dared to do her job — advise the Minister candidly, forthrightly and with integrity rather than say what she thought he wanted to hear — and we see what the results are. Now we know why senior civil servants are failing to carry out their advisory roles as guardians of the moral and legal integrity of government. This highlights the grave risks we face at the very heart of government of misconduct, bending of rules, and sheer flouting of laws, policies and procedures — all to the detriment of the people of the Cayman Islands.

    Hurrah for Ms Ahearn! She sets an example for others.

    And unlikely a recent commentator, I do not believe she will disappear. She should have no fear of that happening. I do not know this woman, but I have always deduced from how she conducts herself on the public stage that she is talented and dedicated. If you think that you can’t keep a good man down, try a good woman!

  2. Had it been Ms. AHearn who acted in such an unprofessional manner by screaming obscene and threatening language at Minister Bodden, would she have been afforded the same privilege of maintaining her employment?
    Now I understand that Minister Bodden is not considered to be employed by the Civil Service, however I believe he still answers to the PUBLIC whom he serves and is expected to behave and act in a manner befitting the position of Minister. He is an elected representative of the Cayman Islands, charged with the responsibility of serving the people of the Cayman Islands. We the people are therefore entitled to at the very least……….answers.

  3. This incident has reminded me of the numerous instances of workplace bullying and abuse that many other Caymanians have been subjected to over the years. While in many of those instances the bullying and abuse has not been as open and direct as the abuse that was directed at Ms. Ahearn it has still been the type of abuse that is based largely on identity, race or culture and is something that should not be accepted within our society.

    Minister Bodden should be aware of the struggles faced by many Caymanians over the year’s as it relates to workplace bullying and abuse and as such his conduct in this instance is especially troubling.

  4. I am however not one bit surprised by the NO Comment made by any of the above persons.
    Should we say that too late we have choose to elect a patterned Government? From here on winning will be about following the game.

  5. Lets stop beating this. Its a dead horse and the passive manner in which the Premier is handling this issue speaks volumes.

    In any political world, this clown would be out on his butt where he belongs.

    Shifting the political pawns around is the equivalent of nothing. Maybe Mclaughlin thinks that we are all idiots and his actions or lack thereof will be viewed as being pro active.

    What a joke this whole thing must be to those reading it through the AP.

  6. Yvette is absolute correct that had it been Ms. AHearn she’d already be gone and quite possibly arrested. Her days are numbered anyway because there’s no way she will have a good working relationship with Alden while his boy is pissed at her. Mark my words they will figure out a way to give her her marching papers. It’s not personally about her if it had been any expat they would have been dealt with much more severely.

    The one thing that we get out of this is that we know for sure how the governments views Non Caymanians.

  7. Even though Ezzard Miller condemns the behaviour, there may be similarities in belief.

    Ezzard wants a raise in the duty free limit, but ONLY for Caymanians! If you’re here working legally on a work permit, contributing to the economy and enjoying the high cost of living, well, no, sorry…

    It may be that the legislature will ‘correct’ this oversight…

    As George Orwell commented – everyone is equal, it’s just that some are more equal than others…

  8. Andy, the actual quote is – All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. – George Orwell, Animal Farm. I had to study this at school many years ago.

    What bothers me is that if this had happened in the UK he would have been forced to resign and his local party would have de-selected him, effectively preventing him from be re-elected. You don’t need politicians like this.

    As for the Governor I’ll offer you another quote – A sincere diplomat is like dry water or wooden iron. – Joseph Stalin.

  9. The general attitude is that things like duty and tax should only be shouldered by the expat community because they are negatively effecting the Caymanian economy by taking jobs from Caymanians. I’ve heard comment such as they need to pay their fair share as if they get some type of duty break. What Ezzard is pushing with the Caymanian only Duty cuts is no different the Bush’s attempt at starting an Expat only income tax. Both of which single out a certain set of people to benefit another.

  10. Yes, was on my syllabus too (with 1984), but attributing to Napoleon the Pig somehow had less gravitas.

    I was going to make a reference to the policies of the other critic too… (Expat Tax?).
    Their condemnation is less about WHAT was said but the WAY it was said.

    The Stalin quote is good, but I always liked the joke by the virtual comedian ‘Max Headroom’ – How do you tell if a politician is Lying? Their lips move…

  11. Small world Andy? I always thought Orwell was very unfair to animals comparing them to humans.

    I find this tax issue hysterical. Here we are on an island making millions from a tax neutral stance threatening to tax the very people who run that industry. Isn’t the implicit message of our offshore jurisdiction that people can, and most likely always will, move themselves, their businesses and their assets to avoid taxation whenever necessary?