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Racism at Tryall?

Published:Sunday | February 1, 2015 | 2:00 AM

Jamaica hotelier claims he was denied top job because he is black

Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

One of Jamaica's top hoteliers, Sam James, is crying foul after an offer to manage the upscale Hanover-based Tryall Club was rescinded, and James is convinced that he does not have the job only because he is black.

"If you speak to any player in the tourism industry in Jamaica and ask them about Sam James, they will tell you about an individual with a proven success record. Therefore, I am at a loss as to why some members of the board would object to having this level of expertise, competence and experience, except it is because of the colour of my skin," James told The Sunday Gleaner.

According to James, he heard about the vacancy at Tryall and submitted an application without knowing anyone there.

"I had about nine interviews with the then president, Jerry Healey. I had an interview by phone with the directors, and I had a breakfast meeting with one of the directors as part of the interview process.

"I got an initial letter from Jerry Healey saying that he wanted to make an offer subject to reference checks, credit checks, a drug test and an interview by the directors. I interviewed with every director by phone and received a follow-up confirmation letter with a start date, in the capacity of managing director, on July 1, 2014," said James.

DELAY IN START DATE

He charged that shortly before he was to take up the job with a 30-month contract, he was called by Healey, who indicated that there was a challenge with some members of the board and the start date would have to be delayed.

The Sunday Gleaner has since seen correspondence from Tryall members indicating their concern that James "was selected through a seriously flawed process, without a search committee, search consultant, or any advertisement". One member of the Tryall board is also reported as saying, "he has hired consultants who are Jamaican, but he has not been able to find Jamaicans to fill senior roles as they are not able to perform".

But this is being rejected by James, who says he was told by the then president that some board members had indicated that they did not know him, and for a smooth transition, he should first work with the outgoing managing director.

"Healey told me that the challenges with the board were not settled and I should come in on a 30- to 60-day basis in conjunction with the former managing director.

James said with the sudden resignation of Healey last year, he was told that he would be kept on as a consultant with a contract that expires on February 15, with no word on the contract he was initially offered.

However, word on the streets is that the managing director's job has gone to someone else, who will take up the post on February 16. According to James, it could not be an issue of competence why he was not offered the job.

"I will put my résumé, my competence and experience against anybody in the tourism industry anywhere in the world.

"As I said to the interim president, 'If there is a situation where the board had a concern with Jerry Healey as president, he has resigned, so the concern must be with Sam James, and the only concern you could have with Sam James is the colour of his skin'," James told The Sunday Gleaner.

WALK IN THE PARK

He said managing Tryall would be a walk in the park as he has a master's degree in tourism hospitality management, and has 44 years' experience running European-style hotels and all-inclusive hotels.

James also served as vice-president of operations in a major chair overseeing eight hotels with approximately 1,700 employees and some 24 restaurants and 30 bars.

"I have been recognised by the Jamaican Government with the Order of Distinction, Officer Class, and have received commendations for the work I have done at Tryall so far."

The issue of a colour bias at the exclusive club surfaced last year with allegations that efforts were being made to block Jamaicans from the leadership of the world-famous property.

At the heart of the dispute is a reported attempt by some board members to prevent any Jamaican from occupying any of the three seats now vacant on the eight-member board.

The election of those board members is scheduled to take place shortly.

Tryall officials have never responded to any questions from our news team.