Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Former USF chairman mum on issuing unlawful contract

Published:Saturday | July 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter

Bishop Dr Wellesley Blair, former board chairman of the Universal Service Fund (USF), has declined to comment on an employment contract he allegedly signed unlawfully that resulted in the termination of former USF CEO Dr Hugh Cross.

"Anybody [who] calls me will speak with my lawyer. I do not speak to anybody on this matter outside of my lawyer," Blair told The Gleaner yesterday.

He did not name his attorney but said that he would seek legal advice on the matter and advise if a response would be issued. Subsequent calls to Blair went unanswered.

The USF issued a press release on Thursday dismissing claims that Cross was fired from the state agency as part of a political cleansing process in 2016 when the Jamaica Labour Party came to power. The sacking of leaders at agencies that were under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology was raised during Wednesday's sitting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee.

 

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

 

"The USF, under this current board, has never participated in such acts and condemns the very nature of such activity. It is, therefore, necessary to set the record straight. The board of the fund ended the relationship with Dr Cross after it was discovered that he had an unlawful contractual arrangement with the entity," the release stated.

The USF noted that Cabinet had approved the appointment of the new board on April 1, 2016. Cross and Blair signed the new contract on April 7 and 8, 2016, respectively. The agency added, "At the time of signing, Dr Blair was no longer the chairman of the board, thus, he did not have the authority to sign a contract of employment for anyone on behalf of the USF."

The USF also pointed out that "no previous board minutes show that the board ever discussed the renewal of Dr Cross' contract". The new board decided to dismiss Cross after a special meeting on August 5, 2016.

The USF is tasked with improving Internet access and digital inclusion for all Jamaicans.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com