Past time for Liquor Board change

| 13/08/2014

Liquor Board chairman Mitchell Wells should have resigned or recused himself long ago, especially after he himself and two other members of the board declared a conflict of interest and walked out of the December 2013 session of the Liquor Licensing Board, forcing the adjournment of the session because of the lack of a quorum.

Considering that a conflict is so obvious and so glaring (both Mr Welds’ mother and son are liquor license holders themselves), it is equally obvious that his continued presence as chairman of the board serves to compromise the office itself. In fact, my attorney Clyde Allen, who attended the December 2013 meeting on behalf of Tortuga, made a statement to the board that because the chairman and the other two members of the board who had recused themselves had acknowledged that a conflict existed, it meant that all previous liquor license decisions that they were a part of could now be legally challenged. He also stated that all future decisions of the board could also face legal challenge.

It is an affront to the intelligence of all Caymanians for Mr Welds to merely shrug his shoulders and maintain that it is difficult to avoid conflict because the Islands are too small, when his immediate family members are directly involved in the liquor industry. Where direct conflict exists, a presumption of prejudice is immediately raised (whether real or perceived), and in any other country would result not only in an investigation but a call for the chairman’s resignation. I agree with a call for further enquiries and investigation into the issues raised by the internal report from the Department of Commerce and Investment and would urge the ruling members of government to show the courage and political will necessary to address the issues that arise from an enquiry.

It could never have been the intention of the framers of the Liquor Licensing Law for any one person to dominate a position on the Liquor Licensing Board for in excess of 25 years and sit as chairman for 12. In fact, Section 4 (3) of the Liquor Licensing Law (2000 Revision) states that members of the board, including the chairman, shall be appointed by the governor and shall hold office at his pleasure for such period not exceeding five years as the governor may determine and who are eligible for reappointment. The definition section of the Liquor Licensing Law states that “governor” means “governor in council.” Governor in council refers to the leader of government business and the Cabinet of the sitting government, so Mr Welds has sat as chairman for 12 years under both the UDP and PPM administrations.

The fact that the law expressly refers to a maximum period of five years is proof that it was never intended that service on the board was to be perpetual. The question that needs to be asked is whether Mr Welds has ever been formally reappointed by the governor in council (the leader of government business and the Cabinet of the ruling party). If not, can it not be said that his position as chairman is invalid?

Thirty years ago, when my wife and I started Tortuga, the Hon. Lem Hurlston, Chief Secretary, was then chairman of the board; thereafter, magistrates were appointed, followed by the first justice of the peace 12 years ago. The intent of the law was to have someone with legal knowledge chair the board. Following recent court decisions, there has been a call for JPs to get some form of legal training because of the nature of their responsibilities. I think it is time to revisit the tenure of the chairman and indeed all board members. This is not about Mr Welds personally, but the office of chairman itself, and a desperate need for confidence in it to be restored.

Considering the obvious conflict, I believe the proper thing for Mr Welds to do is to resign; failing which, the powers that be should thank him for his years of service and ask him to step down. What concerns me, as well as many license holders, is that there are many young Caymanian attorneys qualified and talented and worthy of a JP appointment, who have not been considered by the UDP or the PPM for the role of chairman.

The liquor industry in the Cayman Islands is a significant player in the economy and an essential stakeholder in tourism. It creates many jobs, the trickle-down effect of which can be seen in the growth of huge hotels, restaurants, party boats, liquor stores and warehousing delivery, just to name a few. It is important that the members of the public and the primary stakeholders have confidence in the impartiality of the decisions of the board. As it stands now, that confidence is woefully lacking.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (22)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

                 I  believe that a better suggestion by Mr Hamaty would be to ask Government to increase the number of board members to allow a quorom to be met when a member has to be recused when there is a conflict.  Mr Hamaty I hope that if there is an investigation ,it will look into the fact that some customers are granted a large amount of liquor licences ,whilst some individuals are unable to get even one.I believe  Mr Hamaty falls into the first category,if I am wrong I stand to be corrected. Mr Hamaty you conclude " that confidence is woefully lacking" in the liquor licencing board as it now stands;my question is "Does this lack of confidence extend to the licences that you currently hold?                                                                                    When Mr Welds recused himself from hearing an application ,where a family member is involved he was following the establised protocol followed by other statury boards here in the Cayman Islands.The reason for this is because the population is so small. It is practically impossible to put together a board her in Cayman where there will not be at least one member could be in conflict;but does this mean that we should select only expats for these boards.                                                                                                                                                           Mr Hamaty why do you insist on the resignation of Mr Welds as the only solution ,when a simpler solution would be to increase the membership so that a quorum can be obtained even if 2 members have to recuse themselves for a specific application? Is this personal ? Is there something else that we the public need to know before we arrive at our own conclusions?    

    • Dread On Dread says:

      It's true that we live in a so called free enterprise society which only allows those who have to have more. Mr. Hamate fought long and hard to get his various licenses and distribution points and he did it the hard way, several Caymanians  no longer in the business because they did not have the capital  or the acumen or the protectionism needed( righteous of course) to stop or rather allow others to grow too. What I really want to say is that money now a days inhibits small axe from chopping down big tree. There is however another turning poinr in all of our lives and those of power. His Imkperial Majesty  will sort out the Zsheep from the Goats in his Righteous time. JahRaaaastafari . Hamity it is Jah who balances things sceef remember Iah! we na forget!

    • Anonymous says:

      10:22, did you even read the article?

      Mr. Welds is not allowed to sit on the Board for as long as he has, he should have recused himsef years ago when his direct family members became part of the mix.

      There is a simple way to remove all doubt by board memebers constantly being in a conflict of interest, allow those with Residency to sit. Easy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    No one should remain on a board for over 8 years without a break. They can return in the future if they are still willing to perform these services. If they are not changed by a government then they should have the understanding to decline the reappointment after such time. Maybe such breaks should be stipluated in the laws governing the boards.

    Likewise every attempt should be made to have board members who are not directly (or closely) associated with the area under control by the board.

  3. Walker says:

    Welcome to the brother hood – island style!

    • Anonymous says:

      19:48.Unfortunately for you,this "brotherhood" exists all over the world and is definitely not exclusive to the Cayman Islands.

  4. Andrew G says:

    Please just give the job to DCI. Why do we need Boards? What would be the issue if DCI did the licensing?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is there a single statutory body in this country that isn't riddled with conflicts of interest, self-interest, nepotism and profiteering? Lift the lid on anything involving public money and you find the same things over and over.

    • Anonymous says:

      14:59, the answer to your question is a resounding NO. But we are a Christian Nation so it does not matter.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hamaty was actually trying very hard to be kind and diplomatic.  It maybe impolitic to say, but the situation is far worse than described and many are suffering in silence because they are afraid to speak truth to power.  

    Liquor sales contribute 14pc of government revenue so this administration should swifty address the issue.  Welds is a liability to our country and if he had any decency he would have resigned already.  

    You have to wonder about someone who is recklessly clinging to power in his own self interest despite having lost the confidence of the people whose interests he should be representing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always wondered why successive Governments have never replaced Mr. Welds.

    Most will agree that every change in Government results in the composition of most, if not all, Boards changing.

    I’d like to believe the reason for not changing Mr. Welds is due to the confidence successive Governments have had in his abilities.

    The issue of apparent/actual conflict raised by Mr. Hamaty is important and notwithstanding the past confidence that may have been well placed in Mr Welds warrants his appointment being reconsidered.

    I think Mr. Welds should be thanked for his years of service, but its important to have a Chairman without perceived or actual conflicts.

    • Anonymous says:

       11:46Perhaps the answer is that they are/were pleased with his performance.

  8. Anonyanmous says:

    Very soon there will not be a single Caymanian appointed to any board.  It is just around the cornor then and only then will Caymanians see the folly of their ways.  It is time to say when in Rome do as the Romans do…..

    • Knot S Smart says:

      ok then… But just remember that Rome was not built in a day…

    • Anonymous says:

      If that is what it takes, then so be it.

      If people are going to act accordingly and not for their own persnal gain then I couldn't give a rat's ass where they are from.

      Its called being objective, a wholly foreign concept to most on this Island.

  9. robert hamaty says:

    The LL Board grand CAYMAN listed below my letter to the compass should have also addressed the resignation  of Mr Neil Bryington multiple holder of liquor licenses and Ms Tammy Welds a relative of the chairman ,they being the other two members that has declared a conflict of interest.

     

    Name Role
    Mr. Mitchell Welds, JP, Cert. Hon Chairman
    Mr. Noel Williams Deputy Chairman
    Mr. Neil Bryington Member
    Mrs. Bernice Richards Member
    Ms Tammy Welds Member

     

  10. Knot S Smart says:

    Good viewpoint Mr Hamaty…

    While we are discussing the makeup of boards lets include the Planning Board as well…

  11. robert hamaty says:

    The LL Board grand CAYMAN listed below my letter to the compass should have also addressed the removal or resignation  of Mr Neil Bryington multiple holder of liquor licensesand Ms Tammy Welds a relative of the chairman ,they being the other two members that has declared a conflict of interest. Regards

     

    Mr. Mitchell Welds, Chairman
    Mr. Noel Williams Deputy Chairman
    Mr. Neil Bryington Member
    Mrs. Bernice Richards Member
    Ms Tammy Welds Member

     

  12. Anonymous says:

    Agree 100% the Liq. board chairman has to go!!!! 

  13. Amazed says:

    Agreed. It's time for Mitchell Welds to GO. Long overdue