THA Executive yet to decide on James’ Studley Park board appointment

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Winford James –

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is yet to make a final decision on political commentator Dr Winford James’ appointment as deputy chairman of the recently appointed Studley Park Enterprises Ltd (SPEL).

Speaking to Newsday by phone on Monday, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the decision would be made soon.

“Secretary (Trevor) James wrote a justification note for Dr James and the executive is expected to make a final decision. We would review our decision and give a final determination.”

Contacted on Tuesday for an update, Augustine said: “I will let you know when we make a decision.”

Newsday understands that the three-page justification note from the Secretary was sent to Augustine last Friday afternoon.

On March 28, James, the brother of THA’s Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Renewal Trevor James, the division responsible for the Studley Park Quarry, was among 11 committee members appointed for a year to oversee the quarry’s operations.

Since then, a lot of concerns about the decision have been raised by members of the public in Tobago.

Questioned on the issue at the THA’s Mandate Monday presentation on April 4, Augustine said the appointment was under review. He said he had heard the public’s concerns, and said he listens.

Augustine explained there were reasons to support James’ inclusion on the committee in the first place, referring to his stint at the Mt Pleasant Credit Union.

Augustine said, additionally, James was a leader at UWI, “having managed departments and faculties that are staffed with a lot more people than SPEL is, that manages larger budgets than SPEL currently manages – and he did that quite well. So the question of whether he is a good fit or not really does not obtain.”

Farley Augustine –

UWI’s website lists James under associate full-time staff in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics.

Augustine said, however, that perceived conflict was just as risky as actual conflict, claiming that though James was “extremely well qualified,” the concerns brought by a lot of people had been noted and as a result, as an executive, the matter would be reviewed.

On Sunday, responding to the issue in his weekly newspaper opinion column, James said he perceived no conflict of interest in his appointment.

“What nonsense. What conflict of interest? Trevor and I have never held any equipment or company that can do business with SPEL. We are not engaged in land development requiring aggregate. There is no contract and no chance of any, so there is no pecuniary interest.”

Making reference to a writer on the issue, James said that the writer called his appointment nepotism and corruption.

He responded, “This suggestion is absurd, very unfair and very dangerous. The writer clearly does not understand what nepotism is. They think, as we have seen, that once an employer and employee has blood ties, the relationship must be nepotistic and corrupt.

“They do not consider, know or care that nepotism would critically involve the denial, through discrimination on the basis of blood ties, of a fair chance of competing for the position of director on the board.”

He said his appointment did not put any competitor at a disadvantage.

“It did not unfairly deprive anybody of a job by reason of my secretary brother proposing me to the executive council. In fact, my appointment is not a job, but a service.”