Archive for September 26th, 2014

Driver admits racing ahead of fatal crash

| 26/09/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A 24-year-old man has admitted causing the death of his friend last year as a result of dangerous driving. Igor Domladis pleaded guilty on Friday morning in connection with a fatal crash in South Sound in May 2013 in which Zac Quappe (21) was killed. The court heard that the smash occurred because the two young drivers were racing each other in the early hours of the morning. The collision happened when one of the two vehicles slid into the other near to Sand Cay condos. Dolmadis and his female passenger sustained only minor injuries, while Quappe was pronounced dead a few hours after the smash.

The Ford Taurus being driven by Quappe and Dolmadis’ Mitsubishi Lancer both ran off the road as they negotiated a tight bend. While the Mitsubishi collided with a rock wall by Sand Cay condominiums and a parked Honda CRV in the parking lot, the Ford Taurus continued on a further 200 yards up the road and collided with a concrete column.

The court heard that the crown and defence accident reconstruction experts are at odds over which car slid into which but Dolmadis’ attorney, Ben Tonner, said that the matter was academic as his client had admitted his culpability in the smash that killed his friend. The lawyer asked for a social enquiry report ahead of his client’s sentencing and Dolmadis was bailed to return for that hearing on 27 November.

Continue Reading

Black-tie fundraiser for marine research

| 26/09/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The Festival of Seas, the annual gala event and fundraiser held by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, will be lighting up Camana Bay on 18 October. This year’s event, the Blue Gala, celebrates our ocean and its many treasures – the coral reefs, fish, and beaches that contribute so much to Cayman’s happiness and economy. The money raised from the fundraiser will benefit CCMI’s research and education programmes dedicated to protecting our coral reefs for the future.

“This year’s blue theme celebrates the natural beauty of the ocean,” explained Jade Arch, CCMI’s event organizer for the Festival of Seas.  “Our goal is to honor everything the ocean provides us each day living here in the Cayman Islands, as well as educating our guests about what must be done to ensure its health for future generations. Everything about the Blue Gala will bring the ocean to life – even the dance floor is inspired by the ocean’s bioluminescence.”

The event will feature a live auction, a silent auction, and a raffle. Many local businesses have donated exceptional auction items that include resort stays, original prints by nationally recognized artists and photographers, and prize packages. The event will commence with a cocktail hour, a time for guests to view items for the live auction, bid on items in the silent auction, and enjoy chatting with CCMI staff and guests. 

The gala dinner will feature the local cuisine of several Camana Bay restaurants.  The celebration will continue as guests move to the dance floor, with lighting inspired by the ocean’s natural bioluminescence. 

Black-tie is required, but guests are encouraged to wear blue to the gala to celebrate their love for the ocean. Tables at the Blue Gala are limited, but are still available.  For more information and ticket sales contact Jade Arch at jarch@reefresearch.org

Read more about Central Caribbean Marine Institute

Continue Reading

Everything you always wanted to know about Government (but were afraid to ask)

| 26/09/2014 | 7 Comments

One of the things we hear people say all the time at the Information Commissioner’s Office is “if only someone would make an FOI request about that…” – whatever “that” may be. Well, why don’t you? We have all been there: a question sits on your lips, but before you know it you hesitate and daren’t ask. It’s not that the question is not important, and you know a lot of other people want to know the answer too, but in the end you don’t want to cause trouble and drop it.

The theme of this year’s Right to Know Week is “It’s Yours – just Ask”. Government shouldn’t be burdened with trivial questions, but if something is important for you, and you think the answer can be found in records held by government, you should consider making a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

To do so, make your request in writing and deliver or send it to any part of the Public Sector. If possible, you should address your request to one of the Information Managers listed in the official listing of public authorities on the ICO’s website. You can send your request by email, but you do not have to reveal your real name unless you request access to your own personal information, for instance your immigration file. You should receive an acknowledgment within 10 days and a formal response within 30. If you are not satisfied with the response or believe the Law has not been applied correctly, you have the right to seek an internal review, and eventually an appeal to the Information Commissioner.

If you think you are alone, think again. Last year more than 685 FOI requests were made, boosting the total since January 2009 (when the FOI Law came into effect) to above 3,500. This is one of the highest rates of FOI use per capita in the world, if not the highest. One could speculate why FOI is so popular in Cayman – could government be more secretive than elsewhere? Do people feel close to their government and want to know more about what it is doing – and have a say in decisions? Perhaps a bit of both.

The Cayman Islands Government operates both as a national and local government, and therefore holds records that are both of vital importance to the “big picture” growth and development of these Isles, as well as records that have a direct impact on people’s personal lives. As examples of the former, think of all the ministries, and of the latter, Immigration Department, RCIPS, Department of Labour & Pensions, and Health Services Authority. It is no coincidence that all of these entities are amongst the top 10 most
popular recipients of FOI requests, which together account for more than 50% of the requests received by all 90+ public authorities in the Cayman Islands Public Sector: their records are the most relevant for requestors.

If you want to know more about the latest FOI statistics in the Cayman Islands, please visit the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office and look for our Annual Statistics Report 2014.

Continue Reading

Woman’s 7s team plan to fly flag for sport

| 26/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CRFU): The Women’s National Rugby 7s team have hit the ground running for the new season, literally. The addition of new coaches Henry Warnock-Smith and Cayman Rugby S&C coach Dave Clancy has seen the ladies put through their paces with an intensive block of training which has seen dramatic improvements thus far. The Cayman Women’s team is seen as the flagship program for this coming season with upcoming tournaments both domestically and abroad.

Firstly there is the Elite Marble & Granite Women's 7's domestic league, featuring the Spring league champion OMNI Sharks, the Kirk Freeport All Diamonds and the John Doak Architecture Lady Iguanas.

That then leads into the Halloween Women's 7’s, International Invitational at Truman Bodden, which will see Cayman's best test themselves against international competition from the states and also Europe. All of this is building up to the two major competitions of this calendar year in the form of the CAC Games in Vera Cruz, Mexico followed by the NACRA 7's championships in Mexico City. 2015 starts off with a trip to the Las Vegas international invitational, one of the highest level of competitions outside of the World Series which will kick of the preparation for the ultimate goal, the Olympic qualifiers in the US in June.

The future looks incredibly bright for Cayman Women’s rugby, both through the progress being made in training and the influx of new faces crossing over from other sports like football, flag football, netball, track, boxing and basketball. Many of which have the core skills required to be a rugby player and along with athletic ability and some additional coaching have taken to rugby exceptionally well.

With the women’s league starting next month, Cayman rugby are encouraging anyone who is interested to come to training on Monday and Wednesday nights at Cayman Rugby Club at 5:30pm and see what it is all about.

There will be an introduction to rugby boot camp held on Sunday the 12th of October where the current coaches and players will be running any new players through the basics of the games and recruiting players for the domestic league and potentially the national team for years to come.

 

Continue Reading

Freedomof Information’s first responders

| 26/09/2014 | 1 Comment

The Freedom of Information Law has been in effect now for 5 and a half years and public authorities in the Cayman Islands have fielded over 3,500 requests from the public for all kinds of records. Whether it is questions about how the Turtle Farm is operating, what the future holds for electricity generation in Cayman or the travel expenses of your elected officials, all those requests have had to be acknowledged and processed by someone in government, namely Information Managers (IMs).

The IMs are on the front lines when it comes to meeting the government’s obligations under the FOI Law. As part of Right to Know Week we are highlighting IMs and want to take a moment to recognize the busiest IM in the Cayman Islands, Ms. Petula Twinn, LLB from the Immigration Department. Last year Petula fielded over 140 FOI requests, in addition to her regular duties as the Immigration Appeals Coordinator, and she has had only five cases that were appealed to the ICO in the last 5 years.

Petula recently took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions we had for her.

Tell me how long you have been an FOI Manager and what your feelings are regarding the job so far, i.e. challenges, opportunities etc.

I’ve been the FOI Manager for the Department since the FOI Law came into effect. The first year was challenging as the concept of the public being able to simply request and receive documents/information from a government entity was a new one and required a new way of thinking. Additionally, Immigration was one of the departments to receive the most requests, with the majority of requests made by persons wishing to view their immigration files.

Tell me why you think your public authority receives so many requests per year.

Prior to the FOI Law coming into effect, generally persons were not able to view their immigration files and there was a bit of an ‘air of mystery’ about them. Now that persons have access to their files, many    individuals are eager to view their file to see what it contains. In many instances, I have had applicants view their files and comment that they expected it to be a lot more interesting!

Tell me if FOI has in anyway changed the way your public authority does business and whether those changes have been positive or negative, and in what way.

I think the FOI Law has helped Immigration make a number of positive changes in that the department is now more proactive in providing information to the public. For instance, our website now contains all application forms, along with guidance notes and the current Law. We have a ‘Latest Updates’ which provides important information to the public. This information can include changes to the current Immigration Law and new forms or procedures in submitting applications. Currently, this section provides information on changes pertaining to the English Language Test.

Do you feel that FOI has made your public authority more accountable? If so, how?

Definitely. I think that just knowing that someone can request a document, whether it be a file note, memorandum, minutes from a meeting, a copy of an email, there is a concerted effort in ensuring information is recorded and stored accurately.

If someone asked you for a tip on how to make a good FOI request what would you say to them?

Try to be as specific as possible about the information that you have requested as it helps the FOI Manager identify the records/information that you need.

If your public authority needed someone to take over the FOI Manager duties from you what type of person would you tell your manager to look for? I.e. what type of personality, experience, education etc., should they be looking for?

Based on my experience with FOI, the position requires someone who is objective, naturally helpful and has an open mind. Many times people are not quite sure of the exact document or information that they are seeking and as the FOI Manager, you must be able to ask the appropriate questions in order to determine what an individual is requesting.

In the words of one IM the job they do is “thankless and tireless” but without them it would not be possible for the public to exercise their very important rights to access public records. That is why the Information Commissioner’s Office would like to thank IMs and Deputy IMs across the public sector for their hard work as FOI’s First Responders .

If you would like to know more about the Information Commissioner’s Right to Know Week Activities or the Freedom of information Law please visit our website at www.infocomm.ky or call us on 747-5402.

Continue Reading

New Yorker to head up government’s job agency

| 26/09/2014 | 105 Comments

(CNS):The agency tasked with helping the significant number of unemployed Caymanians find jobs has taken on an expert from the United States to help get what many still consider a dysfunctional unit working more smoothly. Facing myriad problems since its transformation from the old jobs unit, the Nationla Wrokforce Development Agency (NWDA) has been operating without a director, and despite tight controls on civil service recruitment, the ministry said it was important to fill the job. Following a competitive recruitment process the post has been given to Brian Holland, an expert from New York who has more than 20 years of workforcedevelopment experience.

Officials said that the position required a strong background in workforce development, strategic planning and policy development. Holland holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University and has two decades of experience working in both the public and private sector.

Holland said he was excited to create and enhance economic and educational opportunities for Caymanians so they can participate in a globally competitive workforce.

“I welcome working with and developing partnerships in government, businesses and educational sectors to ensure NWDA meets the needs of job seekers and employers,” he said.

In the wake of the Ernst & Young report which recommends divesting just about every government entity, officials said that Holland has also written an academic paper on models of public-private partnership as well as other papers on the development of workforces.

The ministry hopes Holland’s knowledge will help it engage the private sector in initiatives such as the National Apprenticeship Programme and other public-private partnerships aimed at engaging the private sector, local educational and training institutions and other stakeholders as the government addresses the human capital development needs of Cayman.

Holland also has experience at a national level providing subject matter expertise on community, economic, workforce and youth development and educational issues. He has had the opportunity to gain experience providing technical assistance on data analysis, partnership building, policy research, and programme design and coordination. His expertise in these areas will support the work to be undertaken by the ministry as it continues in its efforts to position the NWDA to play a vital role in driving the human capital development agenda of our country, ministry officials said in a release.
.
“The demands of the NWDA have developed and accelerated since my arrival at the agency in late 2012,” said Lois Kellyman, the agency’s manager of employment services. “I came on board keen to contribute to the agency, fully aware of the challenges we faced as we carried out our mandate. I am excited that we have filled the post of director. I look forward to having a full complement of staff and working together, with Mr Holland’s leadership and support, to fulfill the vision of NWDA.”

Acting Chief Officer Christen Suckoo said government would be looking to ensure that local talent would benefit from the recruitment of the new boss.

“As the NWDA and the work it carries out is new to the Cayman Islands, the ministry is pleased to have recruited someone with the wealth and diversity of experience as held by Mr Holland. In addition to carrying the work of the NWDA forward, Mr Holland’s responsibilities will include the training and development of local talent within the NWDA to ensure that a succession plan can be realized for the department. With a background in teaching at Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University, Mr Holland comes with the requisite skills to ensure the employees of the NWDA have ample opportunities for training and development.”

Holland will be engaging in a two month induction involving a full handover from the deputy chief officer with responsibility for NWDA and will assume his post on 1 December.

The NWDA, which falls under the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs, was established in July 2012 to help prepare Caymanians to partake in and benefit from the local economy. However, since its creation the demand and complexity of services required has increased substantially with the rise in local unemployment and ever increasing pressures from imported cheap labour.

Although government claims the agency has responded to the challenges it faces, there are still significantcomplaints about the failure ofthe agency’s systems and that it is still not functioning as it should to help unemployed locals find work. Despite the creation of new lines of communication between the immigration boards and the agency, Caymanians regularly complain that the thousands of positions held by permit holders are still not available to them.

While the NWDA has spoken about assisting job seekers to address their own barriers to finding work, they are still encountering many barriers erected by employers and the lack of enforcement of both the labour and immigration laws.

Continue Reading

Half-way house gets drug council backing

| 26/09/2014 | 8 Comments

(CNS): A local charity which is seeking to fill a major gap left by government in the support of those recovery from drug addiction has been given the backing of the National Drug Council following an evaluation of its new half-way house for women in West Bay. The Bridge Foundation which now has two half-way houses designed to help people transition in their recovery had encountered a major stumbling block when planning issued an enforcement notice against the non-profit foundation over the opening of the women’s home earlier this year. Misunderstanding what the home was the, government agency had demanded a re-zoning for the property.

Earlier this month, however the central planning authority recognised that the half-way house was simply a residential home which happened to be for people recovering from alcohol and drug misuse and lifted the enforcement. Despite being noted as a critical component of recovery by the NDC half-way homes are missing from the local community. Government’s residential treatment centre, Caribbean Haven generally focuses on the second stage in drug abuse recovery but only has only limited half way house provision.

“Understanding the need for safe housing for both men and women in the Cayman Islands, The Bridge Foundation is committed to facilitating the transition of men and women from treatment programmes and other institutions successfully back into our communities,” said Bod Volinsky, the charity’s Operations Manager. “We are pleased with the decision of the Planning Authorities who visited and met with us and the subsequent removal of the enforcement which will now allow for the continuation of services at the women’s house.”

The NDC was asked by the home affairs ministry to evaluate the foundation. The government sponsored drug council pointed to the importance of the homes where the Bridge Foundation promotes sober structured living, educational opportunities, life skills development, self-determination, independence, physical and mental well-being and spiritual development.

“There is no doubt that the halfway houses established by the Bridge Foundation are critical and importantly positioned within the continuum of care for treatment and provides a safe and supportive transitional environment to individuals in need of such housing,” the NDC said in a statement released Thursday about its evaluation. “Studies and literature have continuously underpinned the need for such initiatives in the process of reintegration.”

With little or no provision in the Cayman Islands for recovering addicts, the NDC said the Bridge Foundation is currently providing the essential third step or third stage in the intervention process for those with drug dependency issues. The NDC explained that stage one is recognising the problem, stage two is completing treatment and three is returning to the community in a transitional supportive environment.

“It is recognized that transitional living is a key ingredient in any successful programme whose objectives include, reducing recidivism, criminal or drug use, promoting re-socialization and reintegration and improving prospects for employment,” the NDC said.

Highlighting several very positive findings about the charity the NDC said the operations and confidentiality conformed to acceptable standards. It has set residency guidelines and expectations. Clients must be drug and alcohol free and subjected to random drug and alcohol testing at any time, with or without cause; and residents must attend weekly house meetings and be employed or actively seeking employment.

The operations and books are open for scrutiny and the programme is transparent about its aims that nobody should profit from its activities, and interested parties are entitled to see, and if necessary have explained to them the financial details of its income and expenditure.
Despite many strengths the foundation is facing several challenges, the NDC evaluation report found from sustaining the food voucher component of the programme to prejudices which are complicating its service provision.

“We know from the data that many of our offenders have a history of drug and alcohol related offences,” the NDC said. In addition, over 75% of offenders are Caymanian or have Caymanian Status that signals a return back into communities in the Cayman Islands. We must therefore accept and ensure that we are seeking to provide a continuum of care and services that are going to support the transition back to community and reduce re-offending.”

For more information on the Bridge Foundation, contact us by phone (345) 926-4053 and email thebridgefoundationcayman@gmail.com

See full conclusion of NDC evaluation below

Continue Reading

Veteran Civil Servant retires after 40 years

| 26/09/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The secretary of the Business Staffing Plan board retires today, but government officials have not said who will be taking over the critical post. Civil service veteran Karen Gourzong is retiring from the Department of Immigration after four decades as a public servant. She joined in 1974 working in the department of education but in July 1979 she moved to immigration, where she has remained for the rest of her career. She has worked with five chief immigration officers and assumed a variety of roles, acquiring considerable knowledge along the way, making her “an invaluable resource for her colleagues and customers", officials said in a release.

Given her length of service, Gourzong said she had seen a great many changes and growth in the services offered. 

“I look back fondly over my tenure and thank my colleagues and superiors for the opportunities I have received. There are so many more opportunities now and I encourage younger colleagues to make the most of those offered to them. And I am happy to say that I am proud to have been a civil servant,” she added.

The current head of immigration, Linda Evans, said Gourzong will be sorely missed.

“We have been privileged to have had her service, and are proud of the positive impact she has made to the department. On behalf of all immigration staff, we offer our best wishes for a happy retirement,” she said.

The Business Staffing Plan Board has a critical role to play in ensuring that the country’s larger employers comply with the immigration law in particular with succession planning for Caymanians.

Continue Reading

Mac played 4 slots at a time

| 26/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS):The former premier of the Cayman Islands was sometimes playing as many as four slot machines simultaneously, according to the Seminole Casino records of his loyalty cards. As McKeeva Bush returned to the court Thursday morning in his trial for abuse of his government credit card, the crown called a casino witness from the Seminole chain who revealed that Bush, now opposition leader, was an ‘Exclusive’ member of the casino group, based in Florida, which was the highest of the five levels of membership attainable. The court also heard that on some of his visits to the Seminole casinos Bush’s loyalty cards were in several slots at the same time for as much as eight or nine hours in one night to early morning session.

Tracey Almeida from the casino chain explained the loyalty card records and how they kept track of the casino’s customers' gaming activities, including their wins and losses and the time they spent on machines and how many they were using at any given time.

The documents produced by Seminole for the case, which were explained by Almeida, recorded the net losses and wins that Bush incurred when he was using his loyalty card on his visits to three of the group's casinos in Florida during business and some personal trips between July 2009 and April 2010.

The records showed considerable net losses for the former premier in some of his gambling session through the night and early hours of the morning, where he was using two, three and on some occasions four slots at a time.

During the period in question Bush is said by the crown to have a net loss of some $270,000 over nine months and he is charged with using the government’s credit card to obtain some of the cash fed into the machines. The loyalty card records showed Bush suffering net losses during some of his visits to casinos in 2010 in particular, reaching as much as $60,000 over a two or three day trip.

With as much as $400,000 over the time frame that the case against Bush covers being gambled, the judge, who declared himself unfamiliar with casinos, asked Almeida to explain the physical logistics of putting that amount of money into machines.

The casino executive said that the machines themselves had different levels of wagers, varying from as little as a penny for one spin up to a minimum wager in some slot machines of a $1000. She explained that the slot machines take dollar bills and customers can also load cash onto specially designed tickets that can be fed into a slot machine and record the customer’s credit. That way a gamer can put in thousands of dollars, she said, and play as much as they want, with any winnings being added to the credit total and recorded on the ticket, which can then be redeemed.

The opposition leader is facing 11 counts of abuse of office relating to the misuse of his government issued credit card between July 2009 and April 2010, during which time he is accused of withdrawing various cash amounts on the card in ATMs and cashier cages in casinos in Florida, Vegas and the Bahamas.

As a result of various issues relating to witnesses, legal discussions and the defence attorney’s diary, the Bush case was adjourned on Thursday morning following the evidence from the casino executive until Tuesday.

Continue Reading