St. Maarten Factions differ on dispensation, agree on seeking clarity

POSTED: 06/7/11 2:28 PM

St. Maarten – Members of Parliament have disagreed on whether the Ombudsman Nilda Lynch-Arduin should take up the position of Managing Director of her deceased husband’s company Arlyn Consultants for one year. They all agree though that there is some further administrative work that needs to be done where it comes to the appointment of an Acting Ombudsman. Both issues have now been referred back to the Bureau of the Ombudsman for further clarification and detailing.
The request for the dispensation is part of a letter sent on May 3, 2011. The law does not require parliament say yay or nay to the proposal, but the matter was placed on the agenda for MPs to give their opinion.
Faction leader of the Democratic Party Roy Marlin believes that the Ombudsman will have to be very careful with the particular situation as the company, which handles real estate transactions, has worked on and is currently working on a land deal involving the Government of St. Maarten. The ongoing discussion is over the sale of land government wishes to use to construct a road from South Reward to Dutch Quarter – Link 6 in the Road Network Improvement Plan. Marlin believes that this could lead to conflict of interests and that it is not enough that the Ombudsman would recuse herself in case of a potential complaint.
“I believe the Ombudsman should look more for a construction like those used by the Ministers, where you appoint someone the Managing Director and retain the function of shareholder, because just by assuming the position a conflict of interest will be created,” the DP faction leader said.
National Alliance faction leader William Marlin rejected the scenario laid out by his colleague, calling it, “Such a theoretical, possible, maybe.” He also pointed out the law allowed for a substitute and so the Ombudsman would encounter no hindrance in standing aside and letting someone else in the Bureau handle the company’s complaint against the government.
“I also believe the Ombudsman is big enough, smart enough and wise enough to step away should that ever be necessary,” the N.A. faction leader said.
Both faction leaders differed on what should be the next course of action. R. Marlin proposed that each faction inform the Ombudsman of how they feel about the matter. W. Marlin proposed that the letter be taken as simple notification.
Considering that there was an express feeling that the move would create an undesirable situation the Acting Chairman of Parliament Petrus Leroy de Weever stated that the Ombudsman would be asked to further clarify what business activities she’d be engaged in as Managing Director of Arlyn Consultants, what projects she will manage and whether there will be future contact with the government. The letter will also ask that Lynch-Arduin not proceed with taking up the role of Managing Director until the clarity is given and that she meet with the faction leaders soonest to bring the necessary clarity. A meeting is not likely until the latter part of June as the Ombudsman is on a three country tour that includes Austria, the Netherlands and Curacao.
“What has definitely become evident is that there is a group that says this could be an undesirable situation,” de Weever said.

Both Marlins agreed that the administrative process to appoint an acting Ombudsman was not complete and requested that process be finalized before MPs vote on the issue. In her May 3 proposal the Ombudsman proposes that the Secretary/Policy Advisor within the Bureau of the Ombudsman be appointed her replacement. Parliament could not approve that proposal because, to their knowledge, the proposed candidate is still an active civil servant and the law on the Ombudsman states that civil servants in active service cannot be Ombudsman at the same time.
“We don’t want any gray areas, so we will send this matter back to the relevant parties and request that it be clarified as a matter of urgency,” de Weever said after hearing both men.

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