The Arbitration Committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee recommends the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago’s constitution be revised “to ensure that the language and text support the concept of due process”. The recommendation comes as the Committee delivered its verdict on a matter between the NBFTT and two suspended board members, Keith Clement and Ikenna Joseph. Mr Clement and Mr Joseph were suspended by the NBFTT in April, pending an investigation into their conduct.
During the hearing, NBFTT President Claire Mitchell quoted article 10:3 of the NBFTT constitution which indicates that the Board ‘may’ call upon a director to resign in particular circumstances. She confirmed that this process was not followed. She further explained that this was not the process used in 2015 when Mr. Clement was expelled for similar behaviour. It was decided by the Board to go the route of the disciplinary committee in order to protect the members and image of the NBFTT. Ms. Mitchell further indicated they were not obliged to follow the stated course of action as the Constitution said ‘may’ not ‘shall’.
Chair of the TTOC Arbitration Committee, Sonja Johnson, expressed her concern that Ms. Mitchell chose to go the route of ‘may’ and ‘shall’ in following the constitution as it relates to the disciplinary process. She further indicated that due process must still be followed.
Ms. Mitchell stated that Mr. Clement was expressing publicly that there was financial impropriety in the NBFTT. The Board therefore felt that there was breach of confidentiality and that moving Mr. Clement was just be a band-aid as the Board believed that Mr. Joseph was giving Mr. Clement the financial information especially since Mr. Joseph never denied doing so when asked.
In addition, Ms. Mitchell indicated that Mr. Joseph was told several times by other Board members about his perceived behaviour and several emails on financial and accounting protocol were sent to him by the President.
Chairperson Sonja Johnson asked Ms. Mitchell whether she agreed that suspension is a disciplinary action, to which Ms Mitchell said the suspension was a disciplinary action taken because Mr. Clement broke the rules. Ms Johnson explained that the NBFTT constitution is clear, there is a process, no time frame for the execution, but a clear process for disciplinary matters and further indicated that procedures and processes must be followed, and this is not unique to basketball. One cannot go against the constitution as the person’s rights and the principles of natural justice may be infringed upon.
As a result, the TTOC Arbitration Committee ruled the suspension of Mr. Clement and Mr. Joseph by the NBFTT Board was unconstitutional and should be reversed.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TTOC ARBITRATION COMMITTEE
- The NBFTT Constitution should be revised to ensure that the language and text support the concept of due process.
- In order to adhere to the principles of natural justice it is important that NBFTT follows its Constitution and procedures.
- Even if reference is made to the FIBA’s Code of Conduct, there should be a clear Code of Conduct governing all conduct at the local level as well as the penalties for non-adherence.
- Persons who have grievances with the National Body should not resort to public displays of disagreement as this adversely affects the image and operations of the National Body. No party wins in that scenario.