Watson’s 2007 YCLA award rescinded

Happier days: Canover Watson holding his YCLA trophy in February 2007.

The board of the Young Caymanian Leadership Awards decided Wednesday to “formally rescind” the award given to Canover Watson in 2007 for outstanding achievement and service to the community.

The move follows Watson’s Feb. 4 conviction on five of six corruption-related criminal charges in the CarePay fraud scheme. The charges included two counts of conspiracy to defraud the government with admitted racketeer and business partner Jeffrey Webb, fraud on the government, breach of trust by a public official and conflict of interest under the local Anti-Corruption Law.

YCLA honorary board chairman, George Town MLA Roy McTaggart, said the board’s decision was regrettable but necessary.

“The YCLA award is a distinction that the recipient carries for many years, a badge of honor that implies they will uphold the highest standards of personal and professional conduct at all times, not simply for the year during which they carry the title,” Mr. McTaggart said. “To receive the award is to demonstrate that one has the character and moral fiber to serve as an example – at any age – to the younger generation.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Watson’s recent conduct is clearly unbefitting of a YCLA recipient, and it is for this reason that we have retroactively revoked the 2007 award.”

Mr. McTaggart said the board did not intend to nominate a new awardee for 2007 because the YCLA finalists are never placed in order of first, second, third and so on, making it impossible to determine who would have come in “second” that year. He also said it was possible that Watson may have received some cash as part of his YCLA award, but there was no intention on the board’s part to try and recover any of that.

The Young Caymanian Leadership Award began in 2000, naming its first winner, attorney Olivaire Watler, and going on through the years to nominate among the best and brightest of young Caymanian business and civil service leaders. Award winners include National Gallery curator Natalie Urquhart, Department of Sports Director Collin Anglin, Arch & Godfrey Managing Partner Garth Arch, Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Managing Director Cindy Scotland, Cayman Brac Power and Light’s Jonathan Tibbetts and noted human rights attorney Sara Collins.

No other YCLA recipient has had the title rescinded since the award was established.

During Watson’s sentencing on Feb. 5, Grand Court Justice Michael Mettyear noted that he had performed many selfless acts of service to the Cayman Islands government prior to the CarePay scheme, in which he personally profited from the hospital patient swipe-card contract award he directed as Health Services Authority board chairman.

His public service, for which, in part, he received the Young Caymanian Leadership Award, in some ways made Watson’s offenses worse, Justice Mettyear said.

“You had been an inspiration to many young Caymanians,” Mr. Mettyear said. “What on Earth must they think now?”