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Board rolls Ruel Reid imbroglio back to Williams

Published:Saturday | October 30, 2021 | 12:09 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Former Education Minister Ruel Reid, principal of Jamaica College.
Former Education Minister Ruel Reid, principal of Jamaica College.
Former Education Minister Ruel Reid, principal of Jamaica College.
Former Education Minister Ruel Reid, principal of Jamaica College.

The board of Jamaica College (JC) says it is now awaiting a response from Education Minister Fayval Williams, after approving three recommendations regarding a request for a five-year extension of special leave to principal, Ruel Reid, who has been paid more than $11 million over the last two years while on special leave.

Reid, who is now before the court on corruption charges, was seconded to the education ministry in 2016 as portfolio minister, but was forced to resign in March 2019 after allegations linked him to alleged wrongdoings at the Caribbean Maritime University.

The Gleaner has learnt that the board has asked Williams to initiate a formal complaint to the board, pointing out that without such a complaint, it was powerless to act. It added that any such complaint should supported by the facts which are not known to the board, but only to the ministry.

Its second recommendation is that Williams exercise her power to withdraw Reid from the school.

If she decides not to proceed with either of those options, the board has recommended that Williams negotiate a settlement with Reid.

The board has asked the minister to respond by November 10 ahead of the expiration of Reid’s current special leave on November 20, 2021.

After a lengthy meeting on Thursday night, the board unanimously approved a letter to the minister, which was emailed about 11 p.m.

In a news release yesterday, the board said that the JC community was anxiously awaiting the minister’s decision so that it could proceed to permanently appoint a principal to continue to manage the institution and guide the development of the school’s students.

The board made it clear that it did not want to be forced into a position to either approve the special leave or, alternatively, allow Reid to resume duties at the school.

Chairman Michael Bernard told The Gleaner yesterday that he was surprised at remarks by Williams in Parliament on Tuesday that the board did not send her any recommendation regarding an extension of special leave to Reid.

In the news release yesterday, the board stated: “We found this response from the minister, after almost three months of discussion, to be shocking, to say the least”.

He pointed out that the board did not have the power to dismiss Reid as no complaint was made while he was performing his role as principal of Jamaica College.

The Gleaner asked Bernard if the board had asked the ministry to provide any alleged evidence of wrongdoing that it could use to take action against Reid.

“No,” he responded, before adding, “Sorry, sorry. I have to pull back on that because I cannot speak to that now.”

Continuing, he said that prior to this week, the board had not done that. However, he did not provide further details.

According to Bernard, the board has “massive restrictions and hindrances” that prevent it from taking certain action against Reid.

Responding to questions from Opposition lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday, Williams said that it was the board of Jamaica College that had the authority to determine any action against Reid based on the Education Regulations.

However, the JC board stated that “any cause for complaint during Mr Reid’s tenure as minister might be known to the current minister and others, but without that evidence formally submitted as a complaint, the board is unable to take action with respect to terminating his tenure at Jamaica College”.

Bernard told The Gleaner that he was giving the minister an opportunity to share the board’s recommendations with the prime minister and her Cabinet colleagues before disclosing them to the public.

Attempts to reach Williams yesterday for a comment on the issue were unsuccessful as her phone rang without an answer.

Bernard said that the board was reminded on Thursday night that it received a letter from Reid on August 2, requesting an extension of special leave as well as some other matters. On August 5, the board sent that letter to Williams and asked for guidance on how to treat with it.

The board received a response from the ministry on October 25.