Acting Governor Franz Manderson said there is “no basis” for taking disciplinary action against Health Ministry Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn for allegedly giving a false answer to the Public Accounts Committee last October.
Mr. Manderson’s statement on Thursday was in response to allegations from PAC Chairman Ezzard Miller that Ms. Ahearn knowingly provided false information to his committee.
Mr. Miller filed a private members’ motion earlier this week to hold Ms. Ahearn in contempt and to refer the matter to the director of public prosecutions. House Speaker McKeeva Bush has not yet approved that motion to go to the Legislative Assembly for debate. Mr. Bush said he is “taking legal advice on the motion.”
Mr. Miller’s accusations refer to an October PAC meeting at which he asked Ms. Ahearn about changes made to memberships of licensing bodies such as the Medical and Dental Council. Mr. Miller was expressing concern that changes to such boards could loosen criteria for licensing health practitioners.
“I don’t think that there has been a change that we’ve changed the board wholesale,” Ms. Ahearn replied. “But again, I am speaking from memory and not from paper in front of me and I don’t know for certain.”
That statement was incorrect, according to Mr. Miller, as the entire Medical and Dental Council was changed on Sept. 12, 2017, about a month before Ms. Ahearn gave her testimony.
If Ms. Ahearn’s statement were false, there would have to be proof that she intentionally gave a false answer in order to be guilty of an offense, according to legal advice the Attorney General’s Chambers provided Mr. Miller.
In a March 12 letter to Mr. Manderson, Mr. Miller called for the deputy governor to discipline Ms. Ahearn.
Mr. Manderson replied on Thursday that he did not find Ms. Ahearn’s answers to the PAC to be intentionally deceptive.
“I do recognize that, in light of the actual Gazetted changes in the membership of the [Medical and Dental Council], the Chief Officer’s recollection could be considered mistaken or erroneous. However, I believe that it is plain to see that the language Ms. Ahearn used in her response to PAC clearly indicates she was speaking from her recollection, and at the same time she acknowledged that she could well be mistaken,” Mr. Manderson stated. “In fact, the Chief Officer’s statement contains no less than seven caveats by which she sought to emphasize that, while offering a response (presumably with a view to assist the PAC), she was speaking from her recollection and simply could not answer the question definitively or conclusively.”
Therefore, the deputy governor stated that he is “duty-bound” to dismiss Mr. Miller’s complaint.
Mr. Miller’s motion for contempt suggests that it was filed because of inaction on the part of the deputy governor.
The motion states: “Be it therefore resolved that this Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly hold Ms. Jennifer Ahearn in Contempt and refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions in accordance with section 29 to determine whether Ms. Jennifer Ahearn be prosecuted for an offence in accordance of section 16 of the Legislative Assembly (Immunities, Powers, and Privileges) Law (2015 Revision).”
Ms. Ahearn is on leave until Monday, and did not respond to Compass inquires.