Wired868 spoke to a half-dozen past and present employees at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Through their allegations and on the basis of various messages and recordings, we are able to provide some insight into life at the Government body:
Darryl Smith was just a few months into his term as Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs when he first got wind of discontent within the ranks. Worse, he realised that he could not count on his personal staff—an advisor, secretary, assistants and driver—to hold their tongues.
Smith pulled one of his employees aside for a quick presentation on a Post-it note. He drew a big circle in the middle of the page and then several smaller circles around it.
“You see this big circle?” Smith asked. “That is me. And you see the little circles? That is you.
“If I go, allyuh go. Remember that!”
Smith, according to sources, was never shy about throwing his ample weight around and letting employees know that their sustenance depended on his happiness.
“He ran his ministry like his own kingdom,” said one insider, “where people who worked with him felt they had no form of redress.”
“I remember he told me once that I had no job description,” alleged another source. “Whatever he wants us to do, we must do. It was as if we were slaves.”
The complaints ranged from the usual allegations of forced overtime at short notice to the extraordinary. On at least two occasions, Smith’s personal employees were allegedly asked to bathe his children and/or change their clothes.
Reginald Dumas, former Head of the Public Service, has heard of many different issues involving personal staff—including some advisors acting as though they were deputy ministers. But the allegations by former Sport and Youth Affairs employees astounded him.
“The Prime Minister has to protect contract workers from that kind of exploitation,” Dumas told Wired868. “This is 2018 and that [sounds like] slave labour… That cannot be allowed to continue.”
Another attorney with experience in the public sector explained that the practice of having personal staff for ministers, paid for by the State created a conundrum.
The general legal principle is that the one who hires has the power to fire. In this case, though, the State pays the workers’ salaries without having much control over their duties. So who is the employer in this case?
At the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, Smith’s staff complained of being used more as props than to offer genuine service at times.
Last May, the Sport Minister caused an uproar when he took 12 staffers to the THA Sports Awards in Tobago—despite claims that they travelled to inspect the Dwight Yorke Stadium, less than half of the dozen workers attended the site inspection. But employees said such scenarios were commonplace.
“He liked entering a place after the event started and with everybody looking over their shoulder to say ‘Look the Minister reach with all his people,’” said one source.
If employees felt it annoying to be asked to attend events with nothing to do but offer Smith company once there, they found his seemingly insatiable lust for the opposite sex to be far worrying. The word ‘no’, according to sources, never seemed to put off the Sport Minister for long.
“I don’t just want to f**k you,” read one message to a personal assistant, allegedly sent from the Sport Minister’s phone after one of his late night events. “I want to make love to you slow…”
Another time, an assistant alleged that Smith put his hand between her legs in his office and she had to physically fight him off.
By then, it was not unusual to see the Minister make after-hour trips with female employees to his Tower D office, which was first on the 24th floor and then on the 20th.
“Of course, there is no law (against ministers having sex with their staff) but it is a question of ethics and management,” said Dumas. “Even in the private sector, you have managers carrying on with junior staff. But that doesn’t make it right; it erodes office discipline.
“The lady then starts to gallery that ‘allyuh can’t touch me because that is my man’ and I have seen persons even giving instructions to people who were senior to her under such circumstances. From an ethical and managerial standpoint, it is wrong and wrong.”
One Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs staffer explained that a few of the ladies—who had to interact professionally with Smith but were anxious to avoid situations where they would have to either fight him off or submit—held private discussions about how to avoid being caught alone with the minister.
“He is a very manipulative person and most people just got tired of being around him eventually,” said one former staffer. “We realised that it was all about him trying to get us separately in certain situations so we would discuss things that happened to each of us and work together for our own safety.
“Eventually, I think, he caught on and he started telling each of us things about the other and we shouldn’t trust this one or that one. There was always these mind games.”
Halfway through Smith’s term, personal advisor Garvin Warwick is the only member of his initial personal team who has remained in place.
This was the setting in which Carrie-Ann Moreau, a young, attractive single mother, found herself when she joined the Sport Minister’s personal staff in November 2015.
“You better leave it alone,” Smith supposedly warned one staffer, gesturing in the direction of Moreau. “Daiz for me!”
“Not me, minister,” replied the employee. “They are all yours.”
Moreau never made herself sufficiently accessible to Smith, despite his supposed pleading. And in just a few months, the distraught personal assistant had to turn to fellow employees for help. She lasted exactly six months on the job.
“He would start to treat you differently with out-of-the-way tasks,” said one insider. “Sometimes, he would give you the bulk of the work to do or treat you badly and talk down to you. Or sometimes totally ignore you.
“All of a sudden, he would say ‘She isn’t performing.’ He would want you in work at 7:30am or before. Or say you had to go to events although others offered to go for you, and then make an issue when you cannot make it.”
Shabaka Kambon, who was communications manager at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs during Smith’s tenure, confirmed that Moreau brought allegations of sexual misconduct to him and he advised her to seek legal redress.
“Those allegations of misconduct did come to me while I was there,” Kambon told Wired868. “I cannot verify whether they are true or not but what I did do in my capacity was to advise that she follow the appropriate channels; and to pledge my support. It is the 21st Century and you cannot dismiss such allegations out-of-hand because we know how power is abused and women are often the victims.
“Those of us in senior positions have to take these things seriously.”
Moreau’s precise claims are now, controversially, hidden behind a non-disclosure agreement, which was brokered by the Attorney General’s office.
Smith was dismissive of the the legal battle with staffers.
“I hear yuh girl carrying me to court,” the Sport Minister allegedly told one worker. “I don’t care. No matter if she wins or she lose, it’s not my money anyway…”
Moreau was represented by Advocate Trade Union—a tiny firm which amassed a total of 35 likes on its Facebook page after four years in existence. Although Smith’s behaviour was central to her case, the suit instead named the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs and the Chief Personnel Officer as defendants.
The Union, which also represented Kambon and roughly a half-dozen former employees against the Sport Ministry, demanded TT$234,360 for Moreau, which represented her salary of 30 months (TT$189,000) plus gratuity for three years (TT$45,360).
In the end, just a day before their Industrial Court date on 28 January, 2016, Moreau decided to accept TT$150,000 and move on.
Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs Legal Officer II Judith Joseph described the outcome as “savings” of TT$84,360.
Smith could not care less about the cost to taxpayers. When his then Permanent Secretary Natasha Barrow informed him of the settlement, he showed concern for just one detail.
Barrow: “Matter with Carrie-Ann Moreau resolved. Settlement in the Amt of 150,000 agreed and cheque collected.”
Smith: “[Thanks emoticon]. confidential signed?”
Barrow: “Yes it’s [sic] was part of the settlement agreement that we both signed.”
Smith: “[Thumbs up emoticon]. and no mention of sexual harassment”
But employees were not the only ones to suffer. Another insider reflected on Smith’s first 100 days in office when he made a grand show of meeting every National Sporting Organisation (NSO) in the country.
When staffers brainstormed over Smith’s promises and returned to him with a potential action plan, the Sport Minister was confused; he could not even remember what he told the sporting bodies.
“He asked us what were we talking about,” said the source. “He never had any intention of turning any of his promises into reality. This is a man who would stop on his way to work to take a selfie with a garbageman to create an image of himself. In truth, he is the most disingenuous person I ever worked with in my life.
“The man is a total megalomaniac.”
On another occasion, Smith gave a moving speech about using sport to fill the gaps in social services, as the government tightened its belt in several areas. Suitably impressed, a group of over 20 elders from Laventille—former Olympic athletes, volleyball players, football players and coaches—rented a maxi and travelled to the Sport Ministry to share their ideas on how his vision could be implemented in their neighbourhood.
According to the employee, Smith declined to see them although he was not in meetings on that day. Out of respect, other staffers met the elders and took down their suggestions.
They tried to relay those ideas to the Sport Minister but did not get far.
“Why allyuh meet with them?!” Smith supposedly asked. “Who authorised that?”
Given the leaking of Smith’s relations with then communications contract employee Kate Balthazar, his farcical and costly Tobago excursion, fall-outs with star athletes like four-time Olympian Richard Thompson and the scandalous case of sexual harassment, employees felt certain that his tenure as Sport Minister could not last.
But Smith insisted he was unsackable and destined for great things within the party—when Marlene McDonald was sacked as Housing Minister, the Diego Martin Central MP assured some staff that the position was as good as his.
He never did get the Housing job that he craved. But his ability to dust off public scorn and retain his position stunned—and dismayed!—staffers.
“At the end of the day, we are employed there and we want to keep our jobs,” said one employee.
For some at Smith’s ministry, the sight of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young going to great lengths to avoid implicating their colleague in wrongdoing on Wednesday was too much to bear.
“Nothing will come of this,” said one employee, on the allegations of sexual harassment against Smith. “The party always defends its own, even in wrongdoing. Everything is pointless.”
Editor’s Note: Wired868 sent a list of allegations by past and present employees to Sport Minister Darryl Smith and his Permanent Secretary Nicolette Duke:
- Did you ever use the 20th and 24th floor of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs’ waterfront compound to engage in sexual activities?
- Did you have sex with staff member(s) at the Ministry of Sport?
- Did you physically and inappropriately grab or touch any female employee at the Ministry?
- Did you send sexually explicit text messages or engage in sexually explicit phone calls with any member(s) of staff?
- Did former employee Carrie-Ann Moreau complain that you had been inappropriate with her/and or sexually harass her during her time of employment?
- Did you use personal staff employed at the Ministry for chores that would not be reasonably expected of a government worker including—but not limited to—bathing and dressing your children?
Up until the time of publication, neither had responded.