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Manatt goes quiet

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell and Arthur Hall, Senior Gleaner Writers

The United States (US) law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips is refusing to be drawn into the local controversy over its possible relationship with the Jamaican Government.

Despite being the focal point of the controversy, officials of the law firm on Monday offered no comment when contacted by The Gleaner.

Susan Schmidt, a partner with the Los Angeles-based firm, directed The Gleaner to the company's public relations and communications officer.

But Larry Martinez, public relations manager at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, refused to divulge any information about the company's involvement with the Jamaican Government.

Contacted by The Gleaner, Martinez said: "This isn't a story that we have anything to add to."

Pressed for a response on the controversial link which has been denied by the Golding administration, Martinez would not budge.

"I understand your questions, I do, and I wish that I was in a position to help you, but we don't have anything to add to the story.

"And you can ask a hundred different ways and my answer would be the same," Martinez concluded.

Confirmation of error

That came hours after a senior government source told The Gleaner that local attorney-at-law Harold Brady had submitted documents to the Cabinet which he claimed confirmed that the error, which indicated that the firm was working on behalf of the Government, had been corrected.

Information Minister Daryl Vaz has reported that the information submitted by Brady had been passed on to the solicitor general.

The Government has found itself on the defensive since last week when Opposition Member of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips raised questions about its relationship with the law firm.

Pointing to documents on the US Department of Justice website, Phillips noted that the firm had claimed that it was acting on behalf of the Jamaican Government after being contracted by Brady.

The Government was quick to deny this, even though Prime Minister Bruce Golding later softened his position, admitting that Brady had contacted the solicitor general about contracting the law firm to deal with a treaty impasse with the US.

Golding said the offer was rejected and the Government could provide no explanation why the documents could have been filed.

He argued that Manatt would have to provide the explanation even as Brady was given a deadline to provide clarification.

In his only public comment on the matter, Brady has claimed that he contracted the firm for commercial matters and any indication that it was on behalf of the Government was a mistake that has been corrected.

However, the US Department of Justice website still lists the original documents.