by Shawn Cumberbatch
The sole commissioner empowered to investigate the administration and management of the Alexandra School is to rule on an allegation of misconduct against Principal Jeff Broomes.
In an unexpected development today, Alexandra’s Deputy Principal Beverley Neblett-Lashley and one of the the principal’s former secretaries, Merlene Sealy, were both recalled to the witness chair following a request for their reappearance to be cross-examined by Broomes’ counsel at the tribunal.
The father of a former student of the school also gave evidence today in the matter, which involved the alleged preparation of a document at Alexandra prior to 2004.
When the enquiry resumed on day 35 this morning at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, both the commission’s senior counsel Milton Pierce and Broomes’ counsel Vernon Smith, QC, spoke on the matter, and the principal’s fifth day of evidence was temporarily suspended.
The matter on which Commissioner Frederick Waterman has to adjudicate is within the provisions of Section 23 of Barbados’ Commissions of Inquiry Act, Cap. 112., Section 23, subsection (1) of that law states: “Where it appears to a commission that allegations of misconduct have been or are likely to be made against any person, group or organisation, the commission shall so far as practicable give to that person, group or organisation, reasonable notice of the allegations and a reasonable opportunity to contest them by calling evidence in rebuttal or by cross examination or otherwise.”
Additionally, subsection (2) said that “no finding of misconduct on the part of any person, group or organisation shall be made by a commission unless that person, group or organisation had reasonable notice of the allegations of misconduct and reasonable opportunity to contest them in the manner prescribed by subsection (1)”.
“After consultation with the counsel for Mr. Broomes we are asking, Sir, that the evidence of Mr. Broomes be suspended, adjourned at this stage,” Pierce told the tribunal this morning.
“You would recall, Sir, that a notice was served on Mr. Broomes and, in order to pursue that, counsel for Mr. Broomes, has requested that we take the evidence of the deputy principal and his (former) secretary at that time, and he is advancing this to say that Mr. Broomes will have an adequate opportunity to answer all the allegations which may be involved against him.”
Necessary to rebut, cross-examine
Smith told the enquiry that given the nature of the allegations against Broomes, it was necessary to rebut and cross-examine some witnesses to ensure the principal had the fairest possible hearing.
“I did indicate to the commission at the beginning of this week on Monday that we required that Mrs. Sealy and Mrs. Beverley Neblett-Lashley be summoned to be cross examined in respect of the allegations which were made, the allegations of misconduct, those of which concern my client’s reputation, and of course I wrote Your Lordship … in accordance with Section 23 of the act where he has the right to call witnesses to re-examine or cross-examine them in respect of the allegations and he has done that,” he told the commissioner.
“The other thing is that as a result of the allegations and the notice that has been sent by the commission to my client, it is only right that he is entitled to call such persons as can rebuff the allegation made.”
The matter was then heard with Neblett-Lashley, Sealy, and the former student’s father all giving evidence, after which Broomes resumed his seat in the witness chair and in responding to questions from Smith sought to rebut the allegations.
Smith, who questioned both the deputy principal and former secretary, then submitted that there was no evidence before the commission proving that the allegations against Broomes were true.
“I have said enough and your lordship can make your decision as you wish,” Smith told Waterman after his submission on the matter was made.
“I will take into account your submissions very carefully,” Waterman said.
The enquiry will resume on Monday morning at 9:30, when Broomes is expected to conclude his testimony. (SC)