Corporate Governance Council won’t take blame for leak or resign

POSTED: 06/20/11 1:12 PM

“We remain resolved to continue serving country St. Maarten”

St. Maarten – The Corporate Governance Council has refused to take blame for their unsolicited advice on the appointment of Regina Labega as Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company being leaked to the public and advised the government that it must still complete the vetting process by acquiring the council’s full and solicited advice. These two points are made in a letter the council sent Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on Saturday June 18, 2011 as a response to the public debate about the council and its functioning.

In the letter, signed by the council’s chairman Louis Duzanson, the council state they received government’s request for advice April 21 and issued their unsolicited advice on May 9. The unsolicited advice, which the body is legally allowed to give, was sent because the body realized the urgency of the matter and because government was not sending the council key documents like the job profile the candidate would have to fill and the documents on the selection procedure. The copy of the Articles of Incorporation that was sent was also outdated.

With regards to the leak the council pointed that while they sincerely regretted the leak that they were not the one to send the advice to the media and stressed that they take utter care to ensure discretion especially when it concerns the appointment of individuals. In this particular case the advice was sent to the prime minister on May 9 and then to parliament on June 6.

“The CGC does not know when the advice at hand was made public or by whom. The fact is that soon after the advice was received by parliament, rumors began circulating and on June 10, 2011, a scanned copy of the advice was published on a news website. This gives reason for concern especially this is not the first time that an advice concerning a private individual was made public. The same happened with the advice of April 6, 2010, regarding several intended appointments in the Supervisory Boards of the PJIAE N.V. and PJIAH. Therefore the CGC recommends parliament and the Council of Ministers review their policies and procedures in order to stop such incidents from recurring and find ways to protect the privacy rights and interests of persons who are and will be (inevitably) mentioned by name in a CGC advice,” the council wrote in its letter.

The council has also clarified that its unsolicited advice contained only a preliminary conclusion that was based on common knowledge. Part of the conclusion of the candidate’s suitability is that Chief Financial Officer and a Chief Operations Officer be appointed next to Labega because running the airport requires more human resource substance than she was used to in the past.

The question of integrity and the council’s advice on it is based on media reports that the candidate is very likely to be the subject of a criminal investigation. The council believes Labega having to defend herself in court would look bad for the company, undermine the authority of her office. Because of these considerations the council advised the government not to either seek an alternative candidate or appoint an interim director. Larry Donker already serves as interim director.

The June 18th letter also states that at no time did they attempt to act as a supervisory body because the law governing the body is clear.

“The CGC has never claimed that it could tell government what it can and cannot do. Instead it fully recognizes the right of government to manage according to its political philosophies. Therefore the CGC wonders why it was necessary for cabinet ministers to even raise and/or debate this issue,” the letter states.

The Council also points out that government has yet to fulfill its legal commitment to send the council its reply to the advice with their substantiation, in this instance, of why they are not going to follow the advice. That would typically end the council’s participation in the vetting and appointment process, but because the body has not yet submitted the requested advice the government cannot proceed with appointing Labega until the missing information is provided, the council gives its advice and the government provides substantiation for not following the advice if that is the chosen route.

“At present the Council of Ministers is free to reject that conclusion, but is still bound to complete the vetting process under the corporate governance law of St. Maarten. Should the Council of Ministers choose to pursue the appointment now, as some reports in the media seem to indicate, without having enabled the CGC to issue a final and complete advice it could be argued that it would place itself above the law,” the council states in their letter.

The council is convinced that it followed the law of the land and has stressed that advisory bodies have not been installed to rubber stamp government decisions. They also consider it normal in a democratic country that abides with the rule of law, like St. Maarten, that advisory bodies are able to give a negative advice. It is also considered normal that government deviates from the advice within the confines of the law.

“As the members of the CGC we are convinced to have acted in full accordance with the legislative framework that governs our appointment and the functioning of this independent body. Whilst in the current debate we have not recognized much of the respect that the prime minister alluded to on St. Maarten Flag Day and whilst the circumstances under which we are still forced to operate are less than desirable, we remain resolved to continue serving country St. Maarten in the same spirit,” the letter concludes.


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