NA, US request urgent meeting with Johnson | THE DAILY HERALD

~ On abuse of power, harassment allegations ~


PHILIPSBURG–National Alliance (NA) and United St. Maarten Party (US Party) have requested an urgent public meeting of Parliament with Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Stuart Johnson on a complaint Johnson filed against his former cabinet staffer and policeman Fernando Thomas in October 2018 which has since been dismissed.

  Johnson faces allegations that he abused his power when he fired Thomas after the worker rejected the minister’s sexual advances and financial offers for sexual favours.

  Johnson declined to comment on the allegations last year on the grounds that the matter was under investigation. He filed a complaint against his former bodyguard/driver on October 17, 2018, for slander and misuse of government funds. However, the Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the complaint, Johnson received a sepot (dismissal) letter on December 20, 2018, and there will be no further investigation.

  In their request for a meeting dated January 14, the NA and US Party members of parliament (MPs) said, “There is an urgency to discuss this matter with the minister, as several weeks ago the minister said during a weekly press briefing that he was not at liberty to discuss the matter as it was under investigation.

  “Recently, the Public Prosecutor issued a statement that there is no investigation on the complaint brought forward by the minister. This matter of possible sexual harassment, slander, and apparent abuse of power by a minister cannot be ignored.”

  Johnson came under fire after WhatsApp conversations allegedly between him and the now-former member of his cabinet began circulating.

  The Daily Herald understands that Johnson and Thomas went to a casino after a day of meetings during a recent trip to Europe. Money intended for their day allowances while travelling was played and lost at the gaming establishment. Hours after their outing, Thomas requested a personal loan from the minister. According to reports, Johnson refused and indicated he was willing to make a deal with the staff member to pay for his accommodations for the rest of the trip.

  Messages allegedly between the two show Johnson making sexual advances, implying it was in exchange for money. In the texts, Thomas wrote that he was not comfortable with the manner in which Johnson was speaking to him and would like to drop the conversation. Thomas then had to return to St. Maarten, unable to pay for the rest of his stay abroad.

  Johnson supposedly attempted several times to contact Thomas and have a one-on-one meeting with him. Thomas refused and said he would only meet if other ministers or cabinet staff were present in the meeting. This newspaper obtained a letter dated October 9, 2018, and hand-delivered to Thomas by a marshal in which Johnson stated that Thomas’ services were no longer needed in his cabinet.

  “Your character does not rhyme with the nature of the position, in which an undisputed level of respect, trust, integrity, … and professionalism is required,” stated Johnson in the letter to Thomas.

  Frustrated by his sudden dismissal, Thomas started to get legal advice from a lawyer, but he reportedly has not been paid for his work in the cabinet.

Source: The Daily Herald