Complaints of sexual harassment made by nine female employees at the Cayman Islands Port Authority against a senior male member of staff have not been substantiated, according to a review done by government’s Internal Audit Unit.
However, the unit noted in a brief report released Monday that while the complaint “in its original form lacks merit,” the agency’s review did reveal some systemic behavioral and management problems at the troubled agency.
“The review … yielded a subset of legitimate behavioral issues which need to be addressed,” the report stated. It did not identify those behaviors.
The audit report continued: “The manner in which the [staff] complaint originated and the intent of the complaint is suspect. This is, in part, due to a Freedom of Information request inquiring about any incidences of sexual harassment issues at the port being received the day prior to the complaint.”
However, the audit review also found an “unhealthy” working environment where lower level employees were reluctant to bring issues to management or simply didn’t know whom to approach with a complaint.
“The lack of employee awareness regarding the manner in which to raise and communicate issues of a sensitive and personal nature, coupled with management’s failure to address such issues have contributed to an unhealthy work environment,” the report found. “Staff lacks the necessary trust and confidence in management that they will adequately address sensitive issues in an effective and timely manner.”
Internal audit did find the staff complaint, which alleged 21 separate incidents of sexual harassment against female employees at the port, to be unsubstantiated. However, the report also made reference to unspecified “behaviors” by a senior staff member that, if left unaddressed, could continue to make certain staffers feel uncomfortable in the workplace.
The senior member of staff referenced, who was not identified in the report, was never made aware of what auditors termed “residual behavioral issues” having a negative impact.
Auditors recommended the senior staff member undergo “sensitivity training” and that the port monitor his behaviors to determine if that offending behavior had been corrected. All port staff were asked to undergo additional training in dealing with workplace conflicts and anti-sexual harassment measures.
The audit report regarding the sexual harassment claim was more bad news for the port authority, which has already found itself awash in a separate scandal that led to the suspension of its managing director earlier this year.
The Cayman Compass understands the sexual harassment claims were not made against Managing Director Clement Reid, but rather related to another member of the agency’s senior staff.
In May, Mr. Reid was suspended for “up to three months” in connection with an internal investigation at the authority.
Mr. Reid was initially given a second chance via a warning letter dated Feb. 21, following the release of an auditor general’s review to the port board that identified a number of “irregularities” in the agency’s hiring practices. Other areas noted in the audit report included a suspected theft of boat engines that was not reported to police, and the assignment of an employee to attend a member of the Legislative Assembly during out of town trips.
However, Port Authority Board of Directors Chairman Errol Bush said other matters had arisen that led to Mr. Reid’s suspension in May. He did not specify what those other matters related to.