Harrow denies Observer, Gleaner stories

Leslie Harrow yesterday denied that he had resigned from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) as reported by both the Jamaica Observer and The Gleaner, saying that he was shocked when he saw the front-page stories.

“I wish to make it unequivocally clear to you, the staff at ODPEM, to the local and international partners of the agency, and indeed to the Jamaican people, that nothing in these stories is true,” Harrow said in a letter sent to both newspapers.

However, yesterday evening a highly-placed Government source told the Observer that the story is in fact true, and earlier in the day other Government officials indicated that Harrow did not have a comfortable relationship with individuals in the political directorate.

Yesterday the Observer reported that Harrow had submitted his resignation last Friday with immediate effect after telling senior staff members that he was not willing to accept the disrespect he was getting from members of the political directorate.

“He was seconded to the ODPEM for an initial six months, but he was scheduled to be there for a minimum of one year. But the issues at the top caused him to decide to leave at the end of the six months,” said an Observer source close to the issue.

“He could not accept how he was being treated, with instructions just being given to him and he being forced to implement whatever he was instructed to do, even when he knew it was wrong,” added the source.

But yesterday, Harrow said he did not resign from ODPEM.

“I came to the agency on November 1, 2020, on a six-month secondment from my substantive position at the Electoral Office of Jamaica, with an option to seek an extension at the end of that period. This period ended on April 30, 2021, and I wish to state publicly that my decision to return to the EOJ has nothing to do with any unhappiness with or interference from the minister, ministry or the agency, as is being implied and stated in these media reports. I had and still have a cordial relationship with the honourable minister and the permanent secretary and, indeed, other members of the ministry,” he said.

Harrow said he wrote a letter to ODPEM chair Joy Douglas on April 21, which he titled ‘Letter of Appreciation – End of Secondment, Director-General – ODPEM’.

He said that in the letter he not only expressed his decision to return to the EOJ, but also thanked Douglas and the team members at ODPEM for the way in which they received and supported him.

“That letter was emotionally difficult for me to write, as in this short space of time I have developed strong bonds with people at all levels of the agency. I also stated then, and repeat now, that these six months have been rewarding for me and have undoubtedly enhanced my personal and professional growth,” he said.

Harrow also said he had reached out to the minister and the permanent secretary “to express my surprise at these publications about me and about the agency”.

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