Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
POLITICAL OMBUDSMAN Bishop Herro Blair says he has been under intense verbal attack from members of the public ever since comments were made in Parliament and during deliberations of a parliamentary committee suggesting he was earning between $10 million and $18.6 million annually for doing nothing.
The man of the cloth, who is in his second term as political ombudsman, told a select parliamentary committee yesterday that the alleged comments from parliamentarians have also affected those close to him.
"The reports that have been generated have affected not only me but also my family, friends, employees at the office, as well as my congregation," Blair said.
The political ombudsman was invited to yesterday's meeting to address and field questions from members of the Human Resource and Social Development Committee, which has been deliberating for months on a private member's motion. The motion sought to examine the relevance of the Office of the Political Ombudsman and to determine whether the office should be made redundant.
During yesterday's sitting, Blair said he was not pleased with some of the media releases coming out of the sittings of the parliamentary committee.
He sought to clarify comments made by committee members and the general public.
Blair complained that in a July 20 article, three committee members were reported to have said that they have "had enough of the ombudsman".
In a sharp rebuke, the political ombudsman said he was appalled at the alleged pronouncements of the members. He reasoned that the committee was asked to "review the terms and objectives of the Office of the Political Ombudsman and not the ombudsman".
"If it is that members have had enough of the person who holds the office, how can we be assured that the final report of this committee will be fair, honest, and free from biases?" Blair questioned.
However, committee member Dayton Campbell said the article from which Blair quoted was the reporter's interpretation of what was said. Campbell indicated to Blair that he should have sought the notes of the meeting from Hansard (the verbatim notes of Parliament), which he said would have provided a direct quote from the members. Campbell said he was also displeased when he saw the article because it did not represent the essence of what was discussed.
"From the motion was being presented in the House, before it came to committee stage, at one time the impression was given to the nation that the ombudsman was getting $18.6 million, and I have been attacked by people out there on the streets that I am taking Government's money for nothing," the political ombudsman told committee members.
He said in another instance, a member of the committee was quoted as saying: "We should not be paying $10 million to someone", without producing any evidence.
However, the chairman of the committee, Rudyard Spencer, assured Blair that no member of the committee at any time had sought to attack the person holding the office. Spencer said that this would not have been allowed under his watch.