I read with interest the articles appearing in the last two editions of your newspaper on the matter pertaining to Gemma Bain-Thomas, a former Cabinet Secretary, who has given thirty years of service to the Public Service of Grenada; and is still in court fighting for her court awarded compensation package as a result of her being wrongfully terminated from her position in the public service.
I paid particular attention to the writings of the Attorney General who seemed to be arguing that this matter is a personal grievance of the former Cabinet Secretary towards the Prime Minister. However, upon reading the letter dated April 1st, 2019 from the Attorney for Mrs. Bain-Thomas on the proposal made to his client and his counterproposal, I recognised that this court matter is a continuation of attempts by the former senior public officer to be paid her due benefits in keeping with the laws of this land.
Why is it so hard for our government to be law abiding? In my view, the government’s proposal to satisfy the compensation package by determining monthly allocations which was to be paid quarterly to the ex-senior public servant until she attains the retirement age cannot be considered a compensation package.
Compensatory damages are monies awarded and paid where loss has occurred because of the unlawful conduct of one party toward another; in this case the government towards the then Cabinet Secretary.
The proposal in my view amounted to an attempt to maintain the former Cabinet Secretary under the government’s control as if she continued to be an employee of the government. The counter proposal was worthy of consideration for the reasons outlined in the letter and should not under any circumstances have ended the negotiations.
The non-payment of compensation to the former senior public officer who gave thirty years of public service could never be compatible with a caring government. This is immoral, disrespectful and seeks to strip the former Cabinet Secretary of her dignity. At the time the decision was taken to remove her from the payroll, her benefits should have been computed and immediately paid.
Allowing a past public officer to be out of an income for almost three years could never be right under any system of government. Our government is now in a situation where high poverty and unemployment is prevailing but is using our tax dollars to battle in court with the former senior public officer. The use of limited state resources in this manner is totally deplorable and I fully condemn it.
Unfortunately, the Attorney General, a young woman, who has a responsibility to provide mentorship to other young women, has found herself defending the willful abuse and humiliation of another woman. It is a sad state of affair when state (the people’s) resources are being used to fight and suppress the people.
As I examined the letter of April 1st, 2019, I, unlike the Attorney General do not consider this to be a rejection of the payment plan since there was no agreement between the parties. It was simply an offer made and a valid counter proposal was put forward. It is only if we are operating under a dictatorship that the payment plan put forward was a fait accompli under the disguise of a proposal. To now use this as the rationale for non-payment is willfully malicious.
The Attorney General is new to the post but has been involved in the legal battle. I wish to remind her that Mrs. Gemma Bain-Thomas compensation issue started in September 2017 when the OECS Court of Appeal ruled in her favour and directed that a compensation package for her unconstitutional removal or wrongful termination be negotiated within twenty-eight days or the parties return to court for assessment.
Whilst twenty-eight days may seem short, I see no reasons why the Government legal team could not have engaged the former senior public servant and her Attorney by the end of December 2017 to agree on a package and save us from the ongoing court drama. At the end of the day the monies for the payment of the compensation package and legal fees are not coming from the pocket of the Prime Minister or any minister of government. It is we the taxpayers who have to foot these bills.
The developments in this matter also have implications for present and past public officers. It is my understanding that in October 2017 the government rejected a proposal submitted by the Attorney for the former Cabinet Secretary which would have cost taxpayers less than we currently have to pay and would have ended a vexatious matter.
As a result of government’s high-handed approach the matter was filed back in Court for the assessment of damages and we are still there. We begin a new year, 2021, with the former Cabinet Secretary back in court and our newly appointed Attorney General dedicating valuable time, resources and energy to a matter that should have been resolved three years ago.
Our government saw it fit to bring an end to the payment of judgment debt in the GRENLEC issue which they likewise lost and was ordered to pay compensation. They made a massive lump sum payment which is the subject of discussion among we the taxpayers. Why can’t they see it fit to bring an end to the ongoing nightmare of the Gemma Bain-Thomas issue? This long and tedious process must be taking a mental toll on her especially after giving all of her working life to the public service.
Based on my recollection, in late 2018, a compensation package was negotiated with the former Cabinet Secretary and her Attorney. There is a consent order from the High Court to that effect. I am also aware that a letter from the Public Service Commission was sent to the former Cabinet Secretary and to the Accountant General Department to make the necessary payments. TWO YEARS LATER THE ACCOUNTANT GENERAL NOT ACTED.
The letters were issued by the constitutionally established body the Public Service Commission and the Accountant General is expected to carry out functions entrusted to that office by laws and public service rules and regulations. The amount of the compensation was agreed to, so I ask myself what has prevented the Minister for Finance and Accountant General from making the payments all these years?
This matter with the former Cabinet Secretary is no ordinary judgment debt. It is a claim arising from a wrongful termination of her employment and therefore must be dealt with according to the Employment Act section 50 which states that claims arising out of severance which include wrongful termination of appointment are to be paid within eight days.
I conclude this letter by calling on the Governor-General, Prime Minister, Minister for Finance, Attorney General and the Accountant General to ensure the payments are made to the former Cabinet Secretary in keeping with the laws of the land and end the embargo and destructive vitriol NOW.
Concerned Public Servant