EDITORIAL – When withholding the truth has consequences

All children (and too many maids) hide things when they break them. And too often, when they get caught, they lie. A variation on that theme, of course, is to withhold crucial or critical information.

Responsible and principled adults do not do this, and those in the public service – be they duly elected, duly appointed, or duly employed – MUST not do this. They are obligated to share the public’s business with the public. It is the public that owns public information, not the government or its representatives.

And so, we were perplexed – and frustrated – when government, over the last several days, refused to answer this simple question: Has Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter been suspended, as several media outlets (certainly not the Compass) have reported?

The question – and the answer – leave no room for ambiguity. A simple “yes,” or “no” would do.

Another news outlet, a website, stated categorically, but without evidence or proof, that Mr. Carter had been suspended from his position. The report also implied, but did not state directly, that mismanagement of public funds may have played a role.

For legal reasons, the Compass will not repeat any of the language in the website report we are referring to. There is a precept in law that repeating libelous or defamatory language that is first published elsewhere can be, in itself, an offense.

At press time yesterday, government finally issued a press statement declaring definitively that Mr. Carter has not been suspended. The statement, issued by Jennifer Ahearn, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing, reads in full as follows:

“Contrary to reports in the media, DEH Director Roydell Carter has not been suspended and there are no funds unaccounted for at DEH. Mr. Carter is currently on leave, and Dr. Paulino Rodrigues is Acting Director in his absence.”

No one is more pleased than we are – with the possible (likely) exception of Mr. Carter himself — for government’s finally issuing this clarifying statement.

What took it so long?

For days, Mr. Carter has been the apparent victim of news reports that the government now states, definitively, were untrue. (A second online media organization made similar unsubstantiated remarks about Mr. Carter, but that posting appears to have been voluntarily removed.)

Unlike a private business, which may have proprietary reasons (and every right) not to discuss personnel matters (or, indeed, most matters) publicly, government enjoys no such rights of privacy. Government business is – by definition – the people’s business. As representatives of the public’s interest, government’s first impulse must be to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Of course, we are not absolutist in this position. We understand, and respect, the reality that some government issues must remain out of the public sphere. Examples might include ongoing contract negotiations, national security issues, cases before the court, and sometimes, but usually not, personnel matters.

We can think of no valid reason why government delayed for so long its simple statement that Mr. Carter had not been suspended and that no funds have been unaccounted for at DEH.

If government had received legal advice from its attorneys to respond to every inquiry on this matter with a “no comment,” we would suggest that government received bad advice and might want to start shopping around for smarter lawyers.

They may need them, as might some media outlets, if Mr. Carter decides to sue.

1 COMMENT

  1. Cayman Compass Editor is spot on . Why do we refuse/deny to acknowledge the facts/truth ? I see too much smoke in the Government information release of this issue to believe any of what was said . I think that it’s time for the Government to understand that this information is pubic information and need to be given to the public truthfully.

    How long does it take for the Private Sector to fire and say that you are fired ? I have to think that this is the problem in the Government , it has too many ways to get rid of unwanted Civil Servants. Until Government can change that model the corruption and the bad behavior will continue in the Government.
    Until the People can stand up and tell the Government that it has to be changed Government will cover these issues up and the Public won’t know the full sense of what happened .

  2. “All children (and too many maids) hide things when they break them. And too often, when they get caught, they lie”
    This is a generalization. Not as a child or adult I ever lied about broken things. And I worked in a bed and breakfast as a maid. I broke a coffee maker once and replaced it the same day and I told the owner about it. She said I shouldn’t have done that. I was 17 and didn’t know about wear and tear and business expenses.