Mayne’s attorney dismisses Integrity Commission report into FCJ probe
Nigel Jones, the attorney-at-law for government minister Zavia Mayne, has said that millions of dollars paid to his client by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) as part of a land acquisition deal in 2011 “would have been justifiable in the circumstances” despite the premature termination of Mayne’s service.
Both Mayne, who was last month appointed state minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and Robert Ramsey are the subjects of an Integrity Commission investigative report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
The investigation was triggered by allegations of impropriety, irregularities, and conflict of interest at the FCJ.
The Integrity Commission’s Director of Investigations, Kevon Stephenson, concluded that the decision of the FCJ’s board of directors to engage the services of the two attorneys, who were also board members at the time, was “irregular, improper, and constituted a conflict of interest”.
The FCJ engaged the men to act as its attorneys in a $900-million land acquisition deal between itself and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
Mayne, who entered representational politics in 2016, and Ramsey were paid $26,437,500, for private legal services rendered in relation to the FCJ’s acquisition of 200 acres of land at Caymanas Estate under the Caymanas Economic Zone Project.
However, the men’s contracts were terminated before the completion of that matter.
The Gleaner contacted Mayne, the former state minister in the Ministry of National Security, for comment but was instead referred to his attorney.
The newspaper was unable to reach Ramsey for comment.
Meanwhile, Jones told The Gleaner that there was no “payback or any finding of any independent tribunal or entity that there should be any recovery” of the sum paid to his client.
“We have always maintained that any fees which were earned would have been justifiable in the circumstances,” he said yesterday.
Further, he dismissed the Integrity Commission’s report as “baseless and irresponsible” and argued that Mayne’s existence on the board did not amount to a conflict of interest, suggesting that he did not participate in the FCJ’s decision to engage his service.
Mayne and Ramsey were appointed as FCJ board members in February 2010. The former served until February 2012 while Ramsey served until September 2011.
The men were appointed as FCJ attorneys for the project in April 2011, but there were no formal contracts in place. Their services were terminated in September 2012.
Stephenson, in his report, cited an FCJ statement which noted that attorney Linton Walters was contracted by the FCJ in December 2014 to provide legal services for the Caymanas Economic Zone land acquisition to urgently take charge of the matter and bring it to a favourable conclusion.
It said Walters was also engaged by the FCJ to recover amounts that had been paid to Mayne and Ramsey due to the fact that the acquisition of the Caymanas Lands was not concluded.
Walters was instructed to file a suit against Mayne and Ramsey and to recover fees in excess of work done, the statement said.
But Walters told The Gleaner on Wednesday that he was “not a part of that fence” and was not clear on why his name was mentioned in the report.
“I don’t know how I became a part of that. I just don’t know. I wasn’t a part of it … I wasn’t the attorney who dealt with that,” he said.
In a statement to Stephenson, Dr Clive Grayson, former managing director of the FCJ, noted that the payments made to Mayne and Ramsey were not recovered.
He said the board resolved that it would not proceed any further with the case.
Additionally, a notice of discontinuance was filed in December 2016 by Mayne and Ramsey.
At its April 27, 2017, meeting the FCJ board resolved that it would not proceed any further with the case.
The board, appointed in July 2016, decided not to pursue recovery of the funds after director Rochelle Cameron opined that, based on the legal opinion received from the Attorney General’s Department, "the board may not be successful with either matter".
The board, under the chairmanship of Littleton Shirley, included Cameron, Michael Stern, Kirk Benjamin, Greg Christie, Paul East, Dr Kofi Nkrumah-Young, Jordan Samuda, Grace Burnett, Polly Ho, Fabian Brown, and Julian Muir.
Christie, who has since been appointed executive director of the Integrity Commission, told The Gleaner that he recused himself from all matters pertaining to the handling of the report.
Meanwhile, Stephenson said that the previous FCJ directors — Newlyn Neil Seaton, Derek Cross, Mark Hall, Tanikie McClarthy, Ramsey, Beverly Rose-Forbes, Donald Smith, Horace Sutherland, and Beverley Williamson — who were present at the meeting in which the decision was taken to appoint Mayne and Ramsey, contravened Section 17(1) of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act in their “failure to exercise due care, diligence, and skill that a responsible and prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances”.
He said they failed, at the material time, to develop and/or enforce a written retainer agreement in respect of the legal services provided by the two men; terms of reference for them; and a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the contract was performed as agreed.
Stephenson said that up to February 2, the FCJ’s acquisition of land under the Caymanas Economic Zone Project remained incomplete.
The property was transferred to the FCJ on January 28, 2016. However, the UDC remains an unpaid vendor as the sum of $829,605,575 is outstanding, Stephenson said.
He recommended, among other things, that Prime Minister Andrew Holness commission a general review of conflicts of interests in the country and the detrimental impact they have on public confidence in the Government and good governance “with a view to introducing legislation and/or regulations to clarify how these should be managed”.