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IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Take care in ascribing motive


ROY R. MORRIS, [email protected]

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Take care in ascribing motive

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I HAVE GROWN accustomed to taking blame for things I know nothing about.

It is par for the course. It comes with the job. In fact, it comes with being human.

Every so often, though, when I am blamed for something, I try to use it as an opportunity to teach others – and so I am attempting to do today.

Here’s the first thing to bear in mind: often when someone does something wrong, or something you think is wrong, it is much easier to get beyond the resulting challenge if you have not ascribed motives to them or their actions.

Here’s a simplistic example. Someone bounces your car while it is parked in your driveway or breaks a window pane in your home and immediately you conclude the suspect walking by never liked you and always wanted to do you harm. It turns out, however, that person just happened to be passing, while the damage was done by your favourite neighbourhood child and it was entirely an accident.

Getting beyond your incorrect accusation would have been much easier had you not ascribed motive.

Here’s the real story. A few weeks ago a Facebook post was making the rounds, purported to have come from Dr C. Malcolm Grant, who along with his now deceased wife Carol-Anne Grant, had been charged in connection with the alleged theft of more than half a million dollars from Sandy Crest Medical Centre several years ago. That post said in effect that all charges against him had been withdrawn and he had been vindicated.

The response from our newsroom was as routine as they come. A young, but quite competent court reporter, who has just under a year on the job as a journalist, was told to check it the next day with officials at the court. With a single reporter covering all the Bridgetown courts each day it is normal for cases to be missed. Retrieving information from court officials is a daily occurrence. Interestingly, the reporter had no prior knowledge of the Grants or their legal/criminal challenges.

The following day we carried a short story headlined $1/2m Theft Case Dismissed. Apparently that story offended some, who took to non-traditional media to complain about the time between the court decision and our publication of the report, the length of the story and of course our sinister motives.

The writer made it clear they never believed the original charges and that the operators of Sandy Crest were forced to withdraw the accusation and no money was ever repaid. The questionable conduct of THE NATION, according to the writer, was ample evidence that traditional media have been compromised.

No connection

The final paragraph of the article read: “It would be a worthwhile exercise in determining how and why the Nation Publishing Group of Companies reported that the money was repaid? Was this primarily intended to embarrass and compromise Dr Grant?”

There we go again with motive.

Now I don’t know Dr Grant and I never met his wife. I don’t know what transpired at Sandy Crest that led to them being charged. I have no connection to either the Grants or Sandy Crest or any of its owners, but I do have an unshakeable allegiance to good journalism, which I began practising in 1979. It is the one thing I am trained in and it is the only profession I have practised since leaving school.

I have made more than my fair share of mistakes, but I pride myself on having behaved in such a manner that even my worst enemies, while wishing to remove my head from the rest of my body, would admit that I try always to be fair. They may successfully challenge the outcome of my actions, but never my motive.

That’s why this criticism of our story from a young reporter with no interest for or against the Grants, published in a paper run by a Daily Editor who measures every decision against his strong Christian principles, bothered me so much.

So I did some investigating – you know, that thing that we journalists are always accused of never doing. It led me to a “deed of mutual release”, “drawn and prepared” by a most competent Queen’s Counsel by the name of Leslie Haynes. That release was signed once by Dr Grant on his own behalf, and a second time on behalf of the estate of his dead wife; as well as by 11 shareholders of Trans-Med Inc. (TMI), which owns Sandy Crest. Those shareholders are Dr Brian Charles, Dr George H. Drakes, Dr Ann Marie Cruickshank, William Alexander McDonald, Dr and Mrs Raymond Massay, Dr Chaynie Williams, Dr David Byer, Dr Andrew D. Forde, Dr Euclid Morris and Kathy Ellis.

Here’s what that deed of release said:

• Dr Grant and his wife owned 140 833 shares in the company. When Mrs Grant died her husband became beneficial owner of all those shares.

• The other shareholders collectively owned 607 633 shares.

• The Grants, through their attorney Alair Shepherd QC, made a claim of just over $3 million against the company and/or its director.

• A draft financial statement of the company acknowledged that TMI owed the Grants $45 000, dating back to a loan given toward the construction of the medical facility at Sunset Crest.

• As a result of declared dividend by the company in 2014, the Grants were entitled to $66 543.59.

• Conversely, TMI and/or Sandy Crest made a claim of $862 500 against the Grants.

• The parties “agreed to full settlement of any and all claims” on the condition that Dr Grant surrendered all his shares in the company “to TMI in order that TMI may redeem same”; that he released the company and its directors and shareholders from all “actions, proceedings, accounts, claims and demands”; and that Grant indemnified the opposing parties “in respect of legal fees and VAT” incurred as a result of his claims.

• In return TMI, Sandy Crest, their directors and shareholders released the Grants from “all actions, proceedings, accounts, claims and demands”.

The document reiterated: “This deed witnesseth that in consideration of the premises (including the surrender of the Dr Grant’s shares and the dividends . . .  as well as forgiveness of the loan of $45 000). . . .”

Dropped

Let me conclude with a sentence from the article in the non-traditional media that criticised our reporting: “Dr Grant did not pay back money . . . , the case was dropped, end of story.”

My question: Why did Dr Grant give up $45 000 owed to him by the company, as well as shareholder $65 543.59 in dividends as well as giving up his very valuable 140 833 shares in the company? And why did he drop his claim for $3 million?

All this was done and agreed with the directors of TMI, the parent company of Sandy Crest Medical Centre, by the deed signed on June 23, 2016, the same day as the dismissal of the case by the court. Why?

As I said at the beginning, we don’t always get it right. At times we are just plain careless, but while I am no angel and I don’t work with saints, over the past three and a half decades I have come across very few journalists who walk around with a let’s-get-him disposition.

If anything, the opposite is more often the reality: we don’t pay enough attention to the critical nuances of some of the subjects about which/whom we write.

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