The Roorda case: Minister Meyers in March-meeting: criminal complaint is “a disgrace”

POSTED: 10/16/11 11:28 PM

St. Maarten – Tourism Minister Franklin Meyers considered it a disgrace that the fired head of the Finance Department Bas Roorda wanted to file a criminal complaint at the national detective agency (landsrecherche) about financial irregularities at the Tourist Bureau.
This appears from documents Roorda’s attorneys have filed at the Court in First Instance. On November 9, the court handles the labor dispute between Roorda and the government.
On March 31, Roorda was ordered to appear in a meeting of the Council of Ministers, after he had informed Economic Affairs Secretary General Miguel de Weever and Finance Ministry Secretary General Sherry Hazel about his findings that probably criminal acts had been committed.

In this meeting, the court document shows, Justice Minister Roland Duncan, explained to the other five ministers present (only Prime Minister Wescot-Williams and Vice Prime Minister Heyliger were absent) Roorda’s intention to file a criminal complaint.
“Minister Duncan said that he was aware of the fact that he could not stop Roorda, but he wondered whether this course of action was not a bit exaggerated,” the document states.
Minister Meyers had a different opinion: “He was of the opinion that all intended investigations by the department for internal control have to be reported beforehand to the Council of Ministers.”
Meyers also said, according to the document, “that the travel behavior of ministers should not be subjected to any control.”
Meyers added that not informing the Council of Ministers about an upcoming control is a form of disrespect and that the situation was “a blating (probably blatant is meant here) disgrace.”
“Filing a complaint is bad for St. Maarten’s reputation,” Meyers said.
Finance Minister Shigemoto asked Roorda why the Tourist Bureau had been investigated. “Because that is where we found the most indications for irregularities,” Roorda answered.
Minister Duncan said that the “oops factor” should not be overlooked. “It is possible that these are all mistakes,” he said, adding that repaying the money ought to settle the matter. Minister Arrindell agreed with Duncan.

Roorda told the national detective agency that civil servants routinely collected compensation for more days than the real duration of their business trip. Among the accused were the former director of the Tourist Bureau, Regina Labega, the head of marketing Edward Dest and former Tourism Commissioner Frans Richardson. Labega has in the meantime been appointed director of the airport.
According to the court document, civil servants receive $300 compensation per day when they travel abroad for their job.
Roorda said in the meeting that he is legally bound to report criminal acts.
Towards the end of the meeting Minister Duncan asked Roorda if he planned to stick to his intention to file a complaint. Roorda confirmed this, adding that it is not up to him, but to the prosecutor’s office to determine whether the irregularities he intended to report are criminal acts.
According to the court document, Minister Duncan concluded the meeting with the words: “This has been your last performance in the Council of Ministers.”
Roorda left the meeting, went for lunch and then filed his complaint.
When he returned to his office, Secretary General Sherry Hazel handed him the dismissal letter from the Council of Ministers.
The reason given for the dismissal was, verbatim: You did not stick to the oath of secrecy as it is stipulated in your labor contract by, in spite of several warnings, sharing information with third parties without prior permission from your supervisor of the minister. You are put with immediate effect on paid non-active duty.”

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