Mon | Sep 27, 2021

Lucea's mayor apologises for media lockout

Published:Wednesday | December 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMBryan Miller
Desmond McKenzie
Sheridan Samuels


Lucea's mayor, Councillor Sheridan Samuels, in his capacity as chairman of the Hanover Municipal Corporation (HMC), has apologised for a recent incident in which a Gleaner reporter was barred from a Physical Planning, Environment and Development Committee meeting, an action that was later condemned by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.

At the November meeting, the reporter was summoned to the office of David Gardner, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the HMC and, after being told that a Gleaner story from a previous meeting had caused serious repercussions for the corporation, was barred from attending the upcoming meeting and future meetings.

However, in the aftermath of a strong reprimand from McKenzie, who demanded an immediate reversal of the ban, the mayor was most accommodating to The Gleaner reporter at Tuesday's committee meeting, the first since the incident, and apologised for the incident.

"We really apologise for the inconvenience at the last sitting of our meeting, and I am certain that the whole idea was not intentional. Speaking for me, I take it as a misunderstanding, and I can assure you that we will not have another situation like that again," said Samuels. "We will respectfully outline things to you, we were not fully aware as to what transpired totally, and in going forward, we do not want to have a bad relationship with the media itself, and as such, if there is any concern that you have, you can speak to the me, the chair, or any other councillor, and you will get all the information that you so desire."


Say things out of context


The ban, which was declared illegal by McKenzie, stemmed from a Gleaner report, which stated that councillors at an earlier Physical Planning, Environment and Development Committee meeting had raised concerns about an unbearable stench that was reportedly coming from the Grand Palladium, Lady Hamilton Hotel, in the parish.

When the reporter was summoned by Gardner, it was outlined that the ban was specifically as a result of the story about the hotel. A hotel representative subsequently told The Gleaner that the resort shared an excellent relationship with the HMC and was disappointed that such a report was made public.

"As a result of issues published out of our last Physical Planning, Environment, and Development meeting, the council is of the view that coverage of these meetings will not be allowed until further notice," Gardner told the reporter. "In the judgement of the council, the matter (of the stench) was not yet ready for public consumption, as it was a matter under discussion. Our councillors sometimes say things out of context that should not be said in a meeting, and sometimes they do not realise the implications of the things they say."

... Councillors must regulate their behaviour - McKenzie

When the media ban by the Hanover Municipal Corporation became public, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie promptly issued a statement pointing out that both the mayor and the chief executive officer of the corporation were contacted and instructed that it is to be immediately reversed.

"I want to make it clear that there are only two committee meetings to which public access, and therefore media access, is normally restricted. These are the Human Resources Committee and the Poor Relief Committee," said the minister.

"If there are issues where councillors say inappropriate things in meetings, those issues cannot be resolved by banning the media. It is the councillors who have to regulate their behaviour and raise the level of discourse in the corporations to the point where all can admire the quality of the exchanges and the decisions that emerge from them."