NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe, QC.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe, QC, said yesterday that Corrections Commissioner Charles Murphy told him he was unable to fulfill all his duties at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services because he did not get the support needed under the former administration.
His comments come amid a pending investigation into several matters at the prison, including the facility’s handling of Prescott Smith, a prominent Progressive Liberal Party supporter who Mr Munroe believes may have been held at the prison in contravention of a Supreme Court order.
The handling of Mr Smith prompted officials to send Commissioner Murphy on administrative leave last month.
The decision to temporarily suspend Commissioner Murphy from his duties was criticised by some observers, including Mr Murphy’s attorney, who said the move represents a conflict of interest because of Mr Munroe’s role in a 2019 lawsuit that sought to quash Mr Murphy’s appointment as commissioner of corrections.
However, Mr Munroe rejected the idea again yesterday and insisted that there is no conflict.
He also stated that Mr Murphy had blamed former National Security Minister Marvin Dames “for all that has gone wrong at the prison.”
“I haven’t heard the criticism. I was rather busy but what I did hear was an allegation that somehow there was a conflict of interest over the thing with Commissioner Murphy,” Mr Munroe said when asked to respond to criticism about Commissioner Murphy being put on administrative leave.
“For myself, I had made a press release where for myself I do not see the conflict. Commissioner Murphy said that part of why he couldn’t do his job was because there were no deputy commissioners in the prison. Well, we sent two deputy commissioners to the prison.”
The minister also said: “In short, what he said was that he was not able to do his job because my predecessor didn’t do what he was supposed to do. He might be right. (Former) Minister Marvin Dames might have been an utter and complete failure as minister of national security with regard to prison. That is why you have to have an investigation and that is all that is happening.
“Classically, it’s going to be an investigation that the commissioner not discharge his duty or is all of the fault as he says at the foot of (former) Minister Mr Marvin Dames and in fairness to my predecessor as politically attractive as it may be to blame the former minister, in fairness to people, you have to investigate it so the investigation as I see it which will not be carried out by me will be whether Commissioner Murphy is correct and Marvin Dames is responsible for all that is gone wrong in the prison or whether he bears a responsibility.”
Mr Murphy’s lawyer, Romona Farquharson-Seymour, defended the prison’s handling of the matter during a press conference last week, saying Mr Smith’s lawyer did not show up to the prison with the proper release document, namely a release order.
She said the prison was not at fault for the issues that resulted in Mr Smith remaining at prison longer than he should have.
During last week’s press conference, Mrs Farquharson-Seymour also questioned whether Prime Minister Philip Davis knew that Mr Munroe’s firm represented prison Deputy Commissioners Doan Cleare and Bernadette Thompson-Murray in a 2019 lawsuit that alleged that Mr Dames forced them to take vacation leave to facilitate the appointment of Mr Murphy, their deputy, as commissioner.
The Tribune was told Mr Davis did not know about the involvement of Mr Munroe’s firm in the 2019 lawsuit. Last week Mr Davis said he would speak to Mr Munroe about the issue to ensure “transparency” and that there “is no conflict.”
He also suggested that if the need arises, someone else in the administration will have to substitute for Mr Munroe when there is a potential conflict.