EDITORIAL – Liquor Board must resign en masse

When the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman convenes today for its quarterly meeting, there should be only two items on its agenda: 1) The issuance of a three-month extension for all existing licenses; and, 2) The tendering of members’ resignations, en masse.

For clarity and the absence of doubt, we quote directly from the Internal Audit Service report issued Wednesday:

“Based on completed interviews with all Board members present at the March 24 and 28th sessions, all but one agreed that the meeting on March 28 concluded with the decision being to grant the retail liquor license to Peanuts Ltd.”

Further from the report:

“The approved minutes indicated a different decision than what was taken during the Board meetings in March. All Board members interviewed acknowledged that the approved minutes are an inaccurate representation of those proceedings.”

The board is too compromised to conduct any further business following these, and other, revelations in the report. The auditor’s report further asserts that the board relied on a new “policy,” which it did not have authority to create, to reverse its March 28 decision.

Further, three high-ranking civil servants – Chief Environmental Health Officer Roydell Carter, Director of Planning Haroon Pandohie, and Department of Commerce and Investment Director Ryan Rajkumarsingh – who served on the Liquor Board and voted to grant the Peanuts license on March 28, remained silent as the misleading minutes were published.

These three men have vital public duties and responsibilities that extend far beyond this appointed board, and they must conduct themselves professionally so that they are beyond even the appearance of reproach. They have failed to meet this high standard of accountability and, therefore, must themselves be held accountable.

***(The only current board members blameless in the whole affair are Lynn Bodden, Arleth Ebanks and Anthony Lawson, who were appointed after the Peanuts “action” occurred and after the internal audit had been commissioned. All other members were on the board when the Peanuts retail license was granted, yet they remained publicly silent as a new narrative, declaring the opposite, was being publicly promulgated. Current Board Chairman Noel Williams and member Magalyn Robinson-Clarke were not present during the March 28 meeting.)***

While the audit report confirms the above events, it is not a complete report.

The most glaring omission is any defense, explanation or statement from Woody DaCosta, then acting chairman of the board and the principal player in the Peanuts drama. Not only did Mr. DaCosta refuse to cooperate with auditors, referring their questions to legal counsel, but his attorneys also did not respond.

Mr. DaCosta’s refusal to cooperate with investigators is prima facie evidence that the Internal Audit Service was the convenient, but wrong, body to conduct this probe. When faced with reluctant or uncooperative witnesses, an investigatory body must be empowered to issue subpoenas and compel testimony under oath.

This matter should now be forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, or some other suitable body which possesses such investigatory tools.

***Editor’s Note: This editorial has been updated from the original.***

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