The controversy surrounding the Liquor Licensing Board just got considerably more serious.
As reported in yesterday’s newspaper, the Cayman Compass has come into possession of the original draft minutes from the board’s March quarterly session. Troublingly, the draft minutes differ in substantial and material ways from the “official” minutes, approved by the Board at its subsequent June meeting.
In other words, the draft minutes appear to have been either edited or altered to “rewrite” the narrative of what actually took place at the March meeting. The changes are so extensive that we can draw no conclusion other than they were purposeful.
Remember, minutes are taken at board meetings to record accurately, for future reference, what actually transpired. Other than minor corrections, “draft minutes” and “official minutes” should be nearly identical.
To date, there is no explanation from Liquor Licensing Board Acting Chairman Woody DaCosta or any board members that addresses the discrepancies. Indeed, they have gone completely silent on the matter. They are not responding to multiple email inquiries or returning voicemail messages requesting comment.
In the meantime, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Commerce Minister Joey Hew have called for an independent investigation into the Liquor Licensing Board’s action by the government’s internal auditors.
To make this more clear, the following Board activities are detailed in the “draft minutes” – but mysteriously omitted in the “official minutes”:
- Granted the Peanuts application to sell alcohol on Sundays
- Agreed that gas stations and liquor stores would have to apply for a retail license in order to sell on Sundays
- Agreed that permitted hours for a retail license at all gas stations and liquor stores will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays
- Agreed that sales should not be allowed on Christmas Days and Good Fridays
- Expected an increase in the number of applications for Sunday sales of alcohol
- Planned to create a policy specifically for convenience stores.
Inexplicably, in the “official minutes” all of these matters were altered or excised entirely. In their place are statements where the board appeared to be laying a foundation to justify turning down the Peanuts application:
- The Peanuts retail license had, in fact, been declined
- “The Board agreed by consensus that the letter and spirit of Liquor Law is very clear insofar that Convenience Stores, be they located in gas stations or elsewhere are not to conduct business as set forth in section 10(4) of the Liquor Law, where intoxicating liquor can be consumed on the premises.”
- “In addition, the Board submits that the Liquor Law is unambiguous that there is no wholesale ‘Grandfathering’ of licenses. Thus, only one category of licence is to be held by a Licence Holder for a premises.”
- “Therefore, all premises that currently feature multiple licenses will have a Grace Period from this Quarterly Licensing Session to identify a specific category of licence which they will operate under thereafter.”
- “All Licence Holders must be ready with their one Category for the Annual Licensing Session to be held in September 2017. Failure to meet that criteria may result, in the lapsing of their Licenses.”
Importantly, neither version of the minutes makes any reference to an “electronic meeting” in June that Mr. DaCosta claims was held and during which Peanuts’ license supposedly was denied. In fact, there is no record whatsoever (such as minutes) that the so-called “electronic meeting” ever took place.
The seriousness of the situation demands the audit be conducted thoroughly and completed in a matter of days, not months, and that the results be made public.