The departure of acting chairman Woody DaCosta from Grand Cayman’s Liquor Licensing Board was inevitable, considering the drama of mismatched minutes and conflicting statements that has been playing out in the public spotlight for the past several weeks.
Mr. DaCosta’s exit from the stage, however, does not mean the curtain has fallen. Far from it. The public must have closure – meaning full “disclosure” – over what actually took place during the board’s deliberation on Gary Rutty’s request to sell alcohol at his Peanuts convenience store on Sundays, and the ever-evolving confusion over the state of his license.
Critical questions remain unanswered, including:
Were minutes changed to obscure the fact that the board initially approved Mr. Rutty’s retail license application? We know the minutes were altered because the Compass is in possession of both the “original” minutes and the “official” version. A side-by-side comparison reveals the minutes were changed in material ways. Who changed them? Why?
Was an “electronic meeting” held during which Mr. Rutty’s request for a retail license was denied, as Mr. DaCosta has asserted? If so, why is there no record of this meeting? Why isn’t it mentioned in either the draft or final minutes? When did this “electronic meeting” take place? Who participated? What was the agenda? In addition to rejecting Mr. Rutty’s retail application, were other decisions taken or other matters discussed?
To date, no member of the Liquor Licensing Board has stepped forward to clarify or offer any plausible explanation for the issues enumerated above.
Initially Mr. DaCosta asserted that “clerical errors” mistakenly indicated that Mr. Rutty had been granted a license to sell alcohol on Sunday sales. However, a fuller explanation is required: Clerical errors cannot account for the differences between the two sets of minutes nor do they add any clarity as to why there is no public record of the so-called “electronic meeting.”
Whatever happened during the board’s consideration of Mr. Rutty’s request cannot be written off as a “simple misunderstanding” or a “clerical error.” Something far more serious appears to have taken place.
It is worth remembering that each member of the Liquor Licensing Board bears “collective responsibility” for the board’s actions, but also “individual responsibility” for their own actions and decisions as members of the board. To date, no member has stepped forward to attempt to clarify the board’s confusing and contradictory statements regarding the Peanuts application.
(Remember, government boards — and Cayman has more than 100 of them – are not the private playthings of their members. They belong to, and must report to, the public. It’s not an option. It’s an obligation.)
This week, we learned that the Department of Commerce and Investment website once again (if only briefly) listed Peanuts as possessing a retail liquor license, which would allow it to sell on Sundays.
“We have now had three different declarations on this from the board,” Mr. Rutty told a Compass reporter. We sympathize, but if Mr. Rutty and his lawyers are confused, we can imagine that you, our readers, must be dazed by what continues to be an incomplete puzzle – too many important pieces are still missing.
If this were a simple matter of incompetence, buffoonery or plain-old human error, we would not take up so much of our readers’ time (and our own) reporting and editorializing on the issues surrounding the Liquor Licensing Board. People make innocent mistakes all the time.
Our concern, of course, is that more serious issues are at play. Too many questions remain unanswered, and silence has been the default response from board members.
Therefore, we eagerly await the results of the ongoing probe of the Liquor Licensing Board, expected in mid-September.