‘I am a target’

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Embattled Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) deputy leader for Area Council Four JC Hutchinson says he will keep on fighting as he is being targeted in his St Elizabeth North Western constituency.

“I have found out that north-west St Elizabeth is a target. I have found out that I am a target, but I want to let you all know I have been fighting for this labour party over the years. I have been making sure that those who must come into power for the labour party have come in. I [am] making sure that as we move on we are going to be successful in driving our party forward,” he said while addressing the JLP’s St Elizabeth parish conference at St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz on Sunday.

His comments follow a damning report by the Integrity Commission in Parliament last Wednesday calling out Hutchinson for “appalling conduct” and impropriety in his role as a public servant with the responsibility to act with fairness and transparency in discharging his duties.

The Integrity Commission report said Hutchinson had recommended his intimate partner of 32 years, Lola Marshall Williams, for appointment to the board of five publicly funded schools within his constituency on at least 11 occasions since 2008. This is despite multiple documented objections from stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education’s regional director and the principal of the schools.

The allegation, among several others, was made by a whistleblower in February 2018, prompting the probe. The other claims, which the commission confirmed, are that Hutchinson had recommended to the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation a company owned by his son Jason Hutchinson to undertake work at Lacovia Community Centre, and Lacovia Training Centre in the constituency. Three cheques totalling $713,512 were made out to the company between March and August 2018, the commission said, noting that the MP, his son, and Marshall Williams all reside at the same home in St Elizabeth.

The Integrity Commission report said Hutchinson deliberately attempted to divorce himself from the process of identifying projects and recommending contractors to the municipal corporation for the award of Government contracts, by indicating that the Constituency Development Fund coordinator for his constituency acted on her own, and took directives from political organisations in the constituency, without his knowledge.

This is the second time in two years that Hutchinson has been named for misconduct in public office. In 2020, the MP was stripped of his long-standing post as agriculture state minister due to a controversial land divestment deal with Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited. Marshall Williams had also resigned as chair of the parish advisory board of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority after Holland Producers Limited, of which she was a director, found itself at the centre of that controversy.

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