Cayman Islands attorney general comes under fire again

With a number of freedom of information requests eliciting very little information because of poor record keeping or refusals to release information, Peter Polack said that the attorney general in particular needs to answer questions regarding his chambers, the independence of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) and other concerns that have been raised about the inefficiencies in the legal department.

The silence of attorney general Samuel Bulgin, in the face of a catalogue of current issues in connection with criminal prosecutions and other judicial problems, flies in the face of government’s goals of transparency, Polack told CNS.

“The attorney general has failed to keep relevant and important records or disclose the reasons for a failure to do so, leaving the public to draw its own conclusions,” Polack said. 

“Bulgin has failed to make any comment or explanation to dispel any appearance of mismanagement and poor leadership. This problem extends to other government entities who fend off probing FOI requests by simply having no system of records or staff to manually search records of an archaic system perpetuated by them,” he added.

Polack said that he has concerns that public confidence in the independence of the DDP from the AG’s chambers and the legal department is being undermined by the failure of these departments to properly answer FOI requests and the questions that are mounting about the goings-on in both the legal entities and between them.

One concern is why the AG has been unable to answer questions about the number of official or unofficial visits made to the DPP and discussions between the two departments over criminal matters over the last four years, Polack said, adding that the public has a right to know how the Office of the DPP is maintaining its independence when these consultations are being made.

A recent example of the visits was raised in the trial of Tichina Rickfield, the Work Permit Board secretary acquitted recently following an exceptionally weak case that was prosecuted by the DPP but which had involved the AG’s chambers. Although the judge found in a ruling before hearing the evidence that the AG’s staff and the immigration department were right to consult on the case, the question over why the AG was assisting the department to shore up an essentially very weak case against Rickfield has not been addressed.

In addition, the court heard that Rickfield had been the subject of false allegations and bullying at the hands of her immediate boss, Sherryl Miller. Although it was disclosed during the trial that Miller was present in the meetings with the AG staff, it was never disclosed that Miller was formerly the AG’s secretary.

Polack also said the attorney general is not answering questions about the purpose, duration and destination of some 17 official trips he took between 2011 and 2013 that cost the local taxpayer almost CI$150,000. He queried why the government’s lawyer would need to be away from Cayman for 58 days on official business in 2010 and why he is reluctant to answer the requests and questions relating to those trips and who else may also have been footing the bill for the government lawyer to travel and why.

However, the AG is not the only government lawyer who has spent time away from his desk. Polack claims that FOI requests have revealed that the 102 official trips off-island by his staff over the two years between 2011-1013, costing almost CI$220,000, have not been explained either.

Polack also questioned why, when there are so many highly paid lawyers in the AG’s chambers, the department spent almost $1 million on retaining outside counsel 27 times over a two-year period.

While second jobs are not uncommon in the civil service, provided there is no conflict of interest, Polack told CNS that he has concerns about how employees in the AG’s chambers were given permission for second jobs, including one attorney who was allowed to practice law externally.

“The attorney general neither provided the information nor commented on the subject of the inquiry. Let the public and their elected legislature judge this conduct,” Polack added, as he asked Bulgin to give the public some explanations.

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