A High Court Judge has been ordered to reconsider her decision to add a legal officer from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs to a lawsuit over the failure of the Office of the Prime Minister to disclose information related to the settlement of a sexual harassment claim against former sport minister Darryl Smith.
Appellate Judges Peter Rajkumar and Vasheist Kokaram made the order as he upheld an appeal brought by former government minister and self-professed social media journalist Devant Maharaj.
Maharaj first sought disclosure of the information, under the Freedom of Information Act, seven months after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley terminated Smith’s appointment on April 10, 2018.
Rowley’s decision came shortly after an investigative newspaper report on a $150,000 settlement of an Industrial Court case brought by Smith’s former personal assistant Carrie -Ann Moreau. Moreau was alleging that she was wrongfully dismissed and claimed sexual misconduct from Smith. The settlement featured a non-disclosure agreement.
Rowley first transferred Smith to the Ministry of Housing before he was terminated a day later. Rowley then appointed a three-member committee to investigate the circumstances of the settlement.
The committee, consisting of former permanent secretary Jackie Wilson, Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) executive director Folade Mutota and attorney Elaine Green, submitted its report but it was never made public as it was alleged prepared in breach of natural justice, as persons were not allowed to respond to allegations levelled against them.
In response to the lawsuit, the Prime Minister’s Office also claimed that the report was exempt as it had the potential to harm the reputations of affected parties.
Sports Ministry legal officer Judith Joseph applied to intervene in the case as she claimed that she was subject to adverse criticism in the report and that her reputation would be adversely affected if it was to be disclosed.
In response, Maharaj’s legal team led by Anand Ramlogan, SC, claimed that she could sue the committee for defamation and that the case was already being similarly opposed. They also contended that the application would open the door for others mentioned in the report to intervene, which would, in turn, derail the timeline of the case.
It was eventually granted by High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo.
In their decision, Rajkumar and Kokaram ruled that there was no evidence before Kangaloo on the allegations levelled against Joseph in the report, to justify her (Joseph) application to participate.
Maharaj was also represented by Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alvin Pariagsingh, and Che Dindial. The Prime Minister’s Office was represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, Amirah Rahaman, Ryan Grant, and Tenille Ramkissoon.
Joseph was represented by Justin Phelps and Svetlana Dass.