Music association infighting fuels more turmoil

| 29/01/2024 | 30 Comments
Steve Errol Reid

(CNS): The Cayman Music and Entertainment Association (CMEA), which has been dysfunctional for years due to continued infighting and alleged mismanagement by its board and leaders, is experiencing yet another major dispute over the presidency. Five members claim to have kicked the current president out of office along with other members of the board over allegations of more mismanagement and even fraud.

The CMEA, which is a registered non-profit organisation (NPO), is meant to protect the interests of local musicians, but it has failed in this primary purpose due to constant battling among past and present boards as well as founding members.

In March 2022, a long-running dispute among members culminated in a very angry meeting that resulted in the president at the time, Jean-Eric “Notch” Smith, being ousted from office after twelve years at the helm. But the vote that elected Steve Errol Reid, who has been the president since, was also disputed.

Now, allegations are being made against Reid about the misuse of the CMEA’s funds and property and that he has failed to hold any meetings since that disputed election. Reid has denied these allegations.

In correspondence, seen by CNS, between the current president — who may or may not be lawfully holding office — and other members, they are all disputing each other’s interpretation of the non-profit’s founding constitution and the legitimacy of the current board and its activities. Over the last 20 months since Reid’s election, the situation appears to have gone from bad to worse in terms of communication among members.

Several of the executive board members who were serving in leadership with Reid have also resigned, and with allegations of fraud and corrupt practices continuing, the NPO continues to be as troubled as ever.

Last month, several members petitioned for an extraordinary meeting, which Reid did not attend. In accordance with the CMEA’s rules and given the major concerns several members had about what had happened over the last 22 months, the board and president were voted out of office and a temporary executive was elected. However, Reid disputes the validity of this meeting and has accused the five members of fronting for Smith, the ex-president.

Those five CMEA members — Spencer Merren, Cloden Douglas, Verlene Wallace, Luis Brown and Jermaine Jackson — had given Reid until 15 January to hand over all of the documentation relating to the association’s dealings since March 2022, including the minutes of any meetings that may have been held by any of the members and a record of spending and earnings, which they say he has not done.

In a letter to the General Registry outlining their concerns, which was also sent to the board, the temporary committee made a number of allegations, including the failure to call last year’s annual general meeting at all, which breached CMEA rules, and their lack of faith that one will be called this year.

Allegations that the president had purchased a van for his own use with the association’s money without the consent of the wider membership have been denied. “There is no van”, Reid has said, and he has also disputed accusations that the board acted improperly in administering grants given to the CMEA by the government.

The CMEA managed the stipends and grants given to local musicians by the government when the borders were closed during the pandemic. The association also receives around CI$20,000 of public funds annually to promote local musicians and hold special events, as well as dues from its members. In March 2022, the CMEA was understood to have had some CI$30,000 in the bank, but members are complaining that they have not had recent access to the accounts and have no idea how much money the NPO currently has.

According to documentation that has been circulated, Reid has not complied with requests to meet with the temporary committee, which has concerns that funds may have been mispent. Mismanagement complaints have also been filed with the General Registry. Fraud allegations relating to the 2022 election of Reid and other accusations about the misuse of money were made to the police previously, and a file has been sent to public prosecutors for a decision regarding charges.

CNS contacted Reid for comment about the allegations, and he has denied any wrongdoing. Instead, he pointed the finger at the association and directed us to a letter he sent in response to the temporary committee in which he made allegations that Smith, the former president, was hiding behind these individuals, getting them to do his bidding because he cannot accept that he lost the post of president.

Spencer Merren, a founding member of CMEA, refuted those allegations. He told CNS that Smith had nothing to do with the formation of this temporary committee, and they had deliberately excluded him from being involved, not least because of his rift with Reid. Merren said there were, however, very real concerns about how Reid is running the association, ignoring the rules and failing to communicate with the wider membership.

At this stage, the temporary committee is focused on the annual general meeting that must be called by March, he explained. Because Reid refuses to relinquish control, complaints have been filed again with the non-profit registrar, Merren said. However, that office appears to be very busy and has not addressed any of the concerns raised, despite its role in policing the charity sector, he added.

CNS has contacted the non-profit office in the General Registry, and we are awaiting a response. However, we are still awaiting a response to questions we asked the office in 2022 about allegations of voter fraud at that time over the election of Reid as president.

The Cayman Islands implemented legislation relating to the non-profit sector in 2019, largely to deal with the challenges for financial services regarding the risks associated with international NPOs used by financial criminals and terrorists to launder and transfer money.

The law extended to local charities and non-profits, but the oversight regime has fallen short in ensuring that non-profits here, including private schools, charities, clubs and churches, are more transparent about what they do with the money they raise.


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Category: Art & Entertainment, Local News

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    “Local music” is a damn joke….it’s embarrassing.

    The only Caymanian I’ve actually heard with an amazing voice is Rico Rolando! I wish him all success in life off this rock.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Primarily Caymanian organisation run by Caymanians is a total cluster? Whoda thunk it?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    In this life only one thing is certain: the Cayman Islands musicians’ union will fight like rats in a bag. Nobody must get in the way either, because we love their silly spats. They add to the jollity of the nation.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like our local government.

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  5. Uncle Bob says:

    “One Love! One Heart!
    Let’s get together and feel alright
    Hear the children crying (One Love!)
    Hear the children crying (One Heart!)
    Saying: give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright
    Saying: let’s get together and feel alright. Wo wo-wo wo-wo!”

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  6. Gray Matter says:

    Never heard of them.. that means they can’t sing o4 make music… A bunch of losers.

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  7. bob w. says:

    the youth continue to suffer with the role models that are evident in the Cayman Islands, whether it be polítical office, or non-profits.

    all the prayers wont help here either. shame. the island that was the best….keeps bringing the youth down.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    “The [insert anything Caymanian] has been dysfunctional for years due to continued infighting and alleged mismanagement by its board and leaders…”

    Plus ça change…

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  9. Anonymous says:

    ‘If music be the food of love, play on…..’ Guess not!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Revoke all public funding. Problem solved.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    How can something as openly dysfunctional as the CMEA wield any authority over local entertainment? This isn’t the Sopranos, just cancel their NPO charter and put all local artists on one online gig-booking, scheduling, and client reviewing app. Our resident
    and visiting audiences thirst for quality live entertainment. If it doesn’t exist, it needs to be brought in. We need to streamline this process, not throw up immigration/permit hurdles and payment checkpoints by corrupt music czars.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Not singing from the same hymn sheet.

    At least these guys will know where to find the smallest fiddle, for sympathy.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    these people suppose to be leaders but can’t lead themselves.

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  14. charityfraud says:

    I concur! The registrar has failed in its oversight of NPO’s!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Gen registry sucks – fail to answer the phone or reply to their emails. They’ll be waiting for decades for an answer. Registrar asleep at the wheel.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    It seems that Mr. Reid has some questions to answer.

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  16. WB Musician says:

    This association has always been a disaster and will continue to be because of the nasty and egotistical attitudes that are dominant in each member.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Actually, in 2020, Michael Wilks was elected president of CMEA.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    this is so embarrassing. The state of local music in this country is abysmal to begin with. Kids barely learning in school how to play anything that doesn’t make your neck hair stand up. Nobody adult enough to take anything local to the next level and the only time you hear about these clowns and their organization is when they’re having drama and misappropriating their funds. Clown show

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  19. Anonymous says:

    What do you expect, this is the Cayman Islands!

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