Chang sees no reason to ask House Speaker to stand down
When Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) members and supporters gather at the National Arena in Kingston today for the public session of its 79th annual conference, among the members of parliament expected to be on the platform is Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, the representative for Trelawny Southern since 2007.
The attorney-at-law is the 15th and current Speaker of the House of Representatives and has been seeking to clear her name for more than 20 years regarding allegations of professional misconduct in her handling of the estate of late Montego Bay businessman Clinton Clarke.
The case is before the General Legal Council (GLC), the body which regulates and sets standards of professional conduct for lawyers operating in Jamaica.
The allegations also predate her entry into representational politics and were previously dismissed in 1997 for lack of supporting evidence, two years after it was first reported in 1995.
However, it was reopened in 2013 with an updated affidavit from the complainant, Richard Clarke, on behalf of the biological children of Clinton Clarke and his first wife.
Since the story was first reported by The Sunday Gleaner in July 2021, Dalrymple-Philibert has sought judicial review of the GLC’s decision to reopen the case against her. She asked the GLC to dismiss the case, contending that the matter remains unresolved for too long and it was unfair to her. At the pretrial review on October 31 this year, the matter was adjourned until December 15.
‘SHE IS A VERY GOOD SPEAKER’
At a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week, the JLP’s general secretary and deputy prime minister, Dr Horace Chang, admitted knowledge of the case and agreed that the matter has been unresolved for a lengthy period. However, neither he nor the party believes the issue has brought the office of the House Speaker into disrepute and, therefore, sees no reason to ask Dalrymple-Philibert to vacate the chair while she attempts to clear her name.
“Nobody has told her [to step away until the matter is resolved]. And she has maintained her innocence. Elected politicians have a five-year cycle and if you are going to keep something for five, six years and don’t get a ruling on it, you are putting her in a very difficult position. She has never done anything in Parliament that doesn’t make her a good Speaker. In fact, she is a very good Speaker,” Chang said.
He added, “You are looking at this long-time thing that she had with some lawyer. The only thing I will say is, it has been with the GLC for many, many moons. It’s not yesterday. It’s before she was elected. I think if you are going to disallow her as Speaker, you have to disallow her not to run [in a parliamentary election].
“I am aware of evidence of the case, because I know the problem, but I don’t know the full details … The lawyer who was disbarred is disbarred and I would not want to speak evil of the dead … ,” said Chang in reference to the late attorney E.H. Williams, who was disbarred by the GLC for professional misconduct, and in whose office the missing files for the Clinton Clarke case were found.
Evidence gathered from the documents provided the basis for an updated affidavit from Richard Clarke and grounds for the regulatory body to reopen the case.
Chang said he was aware of “a number of questionable issues that I am familiar with around Montego Bay in terms of property management”.
Dalrymple-Philibert, in correspondence to the GLC, agreed to settle the matter, but Chang said it was the Clarkes who refused to settle.
“The issue of Mrs Dalrymple to settle, I do know a little bit of that, and I think her husband advised that the matter be out of the way because he did not want his wife’s name to be called up relating to the matter. But they (Clarkes) did not settle. But he (Dalrymple-Philibert’s husband) wants to settle in goodwill and peace and otherwise,” Chang claimed.
So, he reiterated, “I haven’t seen enough evidence to tell her she should withdraw. She has submitted to GLC, which hasn’t cleared the issue. She has not refused to go and submit to any interrogation … . What we have seen so far does not necessarily reach the level of asking her to resign.”
WANTED TO SETTLE
Richard Clarke, however, dismissed the suggestions that the family refused to resolve the case, noting that after a settlement sum of $85 million was itemised in April 2016 and presented to her lawyers, there was no response. Dalrymple-Philibert then asked the GLC to dismiss the matter.
Clarke also told The Sunday Gleaner that on Sunday, March 6, he received a call from a member of the JLP hierarchy who questioned him on the issue.
“They wanted to know where the matter was, and I said that it was before the [police’s] fraud squad, the GLC and National Integrity Action,” Clarke said.
“I was told that as soon as the administration settled, a meeting would be held with me and the family to see how best to proceed. I have heard nothing since. One time, I did call back the number and the person said they were in a meeting. I have not received a call nor hear anything since from anyone in the administration,” Clarke stated.
The Clarke family is seeking an explanation and compensation for three properties, including at 92 Barnett Street in Montego Bay, St James, which was sold after a duplicate title was secured.
According to the documents, permission for the application of the title was granted by Ermine Clarke, the second wife of Clinton Clarke, two years after she died.
“A dead woman cannot give permission for anything. I reported the matter to the fraud squad and they wrote back to say they conducted intensive investigation and found nothing,” Clarke stated.
Clarke had also written to then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, seeking his intervention. Holness replied on January 29, 2015 declining to intervene, given that the matter was before the GLC.
Dalrymple-Philibert faces the possibility of a fine, disbarment, or an order to make restitution. In her June 29, 2017 amended notice to dismiss, she contended that the delay will deny or deprive the application of a fair hearing/trial.
Her lawyers also contended that the delay has caused her substantial prejudice, warning that if the hearing is permitted to proceed, having regard to prejudice, it will constitute an abuse of process and in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.