There’re questions this afternoon about the truthfulness of statements being made by both the Principal and Chairman of Hampton’s School Board.
This, as the name of the prestigious all-girls institution in St. Elizabeth continues to be mired in controversy.
Nationwide News has seen documents which raise questions about aspects of the public account Principal Heather Murray has given, after she was publicly criticized for appearing at the bail hearing of the accused child sex molester, Pastor Rupert Clarke.
Our news centre has also seen other documents which cast doubt on whether the school’s Chairman, Trevor Blake, has given a faithful account about the recommendation for Mrs. Murray to go on two weeks’ leave.
Mrs. Murray received widespread public backlash after appearing at the St. Elizabeth Parish Court in Black River on January 4.
Many persons were upset that it appeared she’d been trying to shield an accused child sex molester from the glare of the media.
This, after she attempted to block photo and video journalists from taking images of him as he was being placed in a police car.
Facing intense and harsh criticisms — including calls for her resignation — she responded in a bid to, as she put it, ‘set the record straight’.
In a statement issued to the media on Thursday January 5, Mrs. Murray said she’d gone to court in support of her longtime friend, Yvonne Clarke, who’s Rupert Clarke’s wife.
It was unclear at that time whether Mrs. Clarke was present at the bail hearing.
The criticisms of Mrs. Murray never ceased and her controversial appearance at court continued to dominate news headlines and public commentary.
Education Minister, Ruel Reid, intervened and summoned Mrs. Murray and her Board Chairman, Trevor Blake to a meeting 6 days later. Last Wednesday, January 11.
Subsequent to that meeting, Mrs. Murray issued another statement; a more fulsome one, with an apology for how she behaved at Clarke’s bail hearing.
In that statement, she said she attended the in-camera arraignment of Rupert Clarke at the special request of Mrs. Clarke, whom she describes as her ‘sister’ and ‘friend’.
She added that Mrs. Clarke’s -quote ‘state of personal turmoil rendered her incapable of being present at the Black River courthouse’. -end quote.
However, Nationwide News has obtained a copy of a statement given by Mrs. Murray to the Hampton School Board two days earlier, on Monday January 9.
In that statement to her board, Mrs. Murray says she drove Mrs. Clarke to the courthouse for the bail hearing.
She says after the hearing, she drove Mrs. Clarke and another friend home.
The two statements appear to contradict each other.
They also call into question the veracity of Mrs. Murray’s statements.
In an interview with Nationwide News on Friday January 6, the President of Hampton’s Parent Teachers Association Russell Hammond, also gave the impression that Mrs. Clarke did not go to the courthouse.
Mrs. Murray has since revealed that she signed documents relating to the accused pastor’s bail application, in her capacity as a Justice of the Peace.
She’s now resisting a recommendation from Minister Reid that she take two weeks’ leave from her duties as Hampton Principal.
the minutes of a meeting between the Board of Hampton School and a team from the Education Ministry, including Minister Ruel Reid, indicate that there was agreement for Principal Heather Murray to go on two weeks’ leave.
The meeting was held on January 11.
Both Mrs. Murray and the school board are now disputing that they agreed to the leave, which has been described by Minister Reid as ‘compassionate leave’.
Mrs. Murray’s attorney has written the Education Minister, saying she’ll not be taking the leave.
The Hampton Board Chairman, Trevor Blake, has also written Minister Reid, saying it would be ‘deleterious’ for Mrs. Murray to withdraw from school at this time.
He also says Minister Reid hasn’t given what he describes as ‘an accurate outline’ of the key decisions and agreements of the meeting.
Nationwide News has obtained the minutes of the January 11 meeting at which the matter of Mrs. Murray going on leave was discussed.
The minutes indicate that at the beginning of the meeting, Minister Reid made the suggestion for Mrs. Murray to go on leave, given the circumstances.
According to the minutes, Mr. Blake said he was of the same view.
Mrs. Murray was then called into the meeting, where she admitted that her actions outside the Black River Court House on January 4 were a ‘breach of common sense’, and also of Hampton rules and protocol.
Minister Reid then again raised the issue of leave, noting that Mrs. Murray was serving as Hampton’s Principal at his pleasure since she’s now on extension of retirement.
Mr. Blake then indicated that Mrs. Murray would comply, as there are capable persons at Hampton to act as Principal, so there would be no problem with her going off on leave.
The Minister then said, in agreement with the Board and Mrs. Murray herself, she would go off for two weeks.
Later on in the meeting, it’s noted that Blake raised an issue, that if Murray goes on leave immediately, the public would see the leave as a disciplinary action.
However, Blake went on to say that they understand the Minister has other persons to satisfy, so they understood the situation.
The minutes end with the recommendation for two weeks leave beginning January 16, in addition to counseling for Mrs. Murray.
But in a letter to Minister Reid on Monday, Mr. Blake appears to have flip flopped.
He says, on reflection, it was Minister Reid’s proposal that Mrs. Murray should go on two weeks’ leave.
He says this did not receive the endorsement of representatives of the Board and the Munro and Dickenson Trust.
He says it didn’t then, and doesn’t now.
In the meantime, when Nationwide News contacted Mr. Blake this afternoon to respond to the apparent contradiction, he refused.