(CNS): A senior manager at the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands (PACI) who is accused of multiple incidences of sexual harassment spanning several years and involving at least nine women has been cleared by an internal investigation. Falling short of accusing the women who complained of making malicious allegations, a report by the Internal Audit Service (IAS) described the complaints as “suspect”. Despite not believing the nine women who work at PACI, the internal inquiry did find an unhealthy work environment due to the behaviour of the senior manager, who is still on the job.
The complaint was made in May and signed by the nine women. In response, the authority’s board and tourism ministry asked the government’s Internal Audit Service to investigate the alleged sexual misconduct by the senior manager, who remained on the job throughout the inquiry. In a very short report published last month and released this week, the IAS concluded that the complaints lacked “merit” and were found to be “unsubstantiated”.
Without outlining exactly why the complaints from the women, describing 21 incidences, were unfounded, the report stated that the “manner in which the complaint originated and the intent of the complaint is suspect”.
The report pointed to a freedom of information request asking about any incidences of sexual harassment at the port the day before the complaint. It is not clear, however, why the FOI application would have any bearing on whether or not the women were being truthful about their experiences regarding the senior manager.
Although the internal report dismissed the sexual harassment allegations, the investigation found another “subset of legitimate behavioural issues which need to be addressed”. Again, there was no explanation about what that meant but the report’s author, Andy Bonner, said it did not constitute sexual harassment, even though it was “not suitable to the work place”.
Bonner wrote, “The senior member of staff was not made aware that these residual behavioural issues were having a negative impact. If left unaddressed these behaviours could continue and staff will continue to feel uncomfortable in the workplace.”
Finding that management was unaware of how to deal with the sexual harassment complaint, the report said that confusion exists at the port over which policy framework is applicable in these situations.
“Staff lacks the necessary trust and confidence in management that they will adequately address sensitive issues in an effective and timely manner. As a result staff are not raising issues, which has the potential of permitting inappropriate behaviour to continue. This apparent lack of trust and inaction leads to an environment which is not conducive to a healthy work place in which problems accumulate and staff becomes demoralised,” the report stated.
The inquiry also found a lack of employee awareness on how to communicate issues of a sensitive and personal nature, which, coupled with the management’s failure to address the complaints, have contributed to an unhealthy work environment. As a result, a number of recommendations were made, including awareness training for all port staff on work place conduct and that the authority should update its policies and procedures on reporting grievances and general workplace conduct.
The original complaint has not been defined by either the port authority of the tourism ministry. However, other sources have told CNS that the allegations were not new and that women had been subjected to harassment, including sexual comments, gestures and conduct from the senior manager going back as far as 2005.
This latest allegation comes in the wake of a major scandal surrounding unapproved spending, among other issues, by the director, who remains on required leave as another investigation rolls on. Clement Reid managed to hang onto the job for several months after damning findings by the auditor general, but once the issues were exposed, public pressure about the misconduct led to Reid’s suspension and another internal inquiry.
Reid was not the subject of the sexual harassment allegations.
He is not the only senior civil servant facing a misconduct inquiry. The director of the NRA, Paul Parchment was placed on required leave a few months ago following allegations that he was misusing the authority’s resources. And the entire hospital security team had been suspended in the wake of a probe there revealing questions about overtime. Since then, two supervisors have been arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission in connection with that inquiry, though no one has yet been charged.
Roydell Carter, the director of the Department of Environmental Health, has been away from his desk for around nine months for mysterious reasons. Officials continued to deny that he has been officially suspended, though CNS understands that he and government remain engaged in some form of talks about his future with the service.
In other departments, including immigration and customs, several senior and less senior officers and civil servants remain suspended from their jobs as a result of criminal investigations, largely related to drug trafficking.