Craig Brown fires back at HSA

Former Health Services Authority CEO Craig Brown, through his attorneys Ritch and Conolly, sued his former employer Tuesday for wrongful dismissal and is seeking damages, interests and costs.

The HSA Board of Directors terminated Mr. Brown’s employment on 2 October after he had been on the job only six months into a three-year contract.

‘Since my termination… my attorney’s and I have tried to settle the claim I have against the Health Services Authority on an amicable basis,’ Mr. Brown stated in a press release issued Tuesday. ‘However, it now appears that the directors of the Health Services Authority have no intention of resolving this matter consensually and so I have been forced to issue proceedings.’

Mr. Brown said the HSA had breached his contract of employment and must now compensate him for the losses he experiences as a consequence. Those losses will include his agreed salary in full until 31 March, 2009, less any remuneration he receives from other employment.

The writ of summons filed in Grand Court Tuesday states that Mr. Brown’s salary was to be CI$169,344 per annum during his first year. With continued satisfactory performance, his salary was to increase to CI$172,872 in the second year and CI$176,400 in the third year of his contract.

‘I regret having to take court action against the Health Services Authority, which I believe can ill-afford the costs that will be involved, but the action of the Board of Director of the Health Services Authority, first in dismissing me without due process and without due cause, and then in failing to show any inclination to settle the matter, have left me with no choice.’

Beyond outlining in detail the terms of Mr. Brown’s employment contract with the HSA, the writ delves into the circumstances that led to Mr. Brown’s dismissal.

The writ states that on 8 September, 2006, Mr. Brown received a letter from the HSA Chairman Al Ebanks, which gave him formal notice that the board ‘considers that you have not been performing your duties as chief executive officer in a satisfactory manner, and in some instances, you have so conducted yourself as to be, in the opinion of the board, guilty of misconduct’.

The letter also listed instances of Mr. Brown’s alleged unsatisfactory performance or alleged misconduct.

Those instances including transferring Dr. Fiona Robertson from the then-doctor in charge of the Accident and Emergency Division to the General Clinic Department; dismissing Cathy Gomez in circumstances that were ‘not handled well’; and allegedly failing to use appropriate diplomatic skills when dealing with Ms Gomez; with Ms Gomez’s attorney who was at the time Sheridan Brooks; and with Marjorie and Edward Bodden, owners of Executive Air Services Ltd.

In addition, the letter warned Mr. Brown that his contract allowed the board to dismiss him for misconduct, poor performance, as well as upon other grounds. It also stated that Mr. Brown had to develop ‘a fresh, constructive and less confrontational management style’ and to demonstrate a ‘changed attitude’ within 30 days.

Mr. Brown was also instructed to provide a written apology for his personal conduct to Minister of Health Anthony Eden within 24 hours, and to Marjorie and Edward Bodden and Sheridan Brooks within seven days.

The letter also instructed Mr Brown not to make any public statements to the press or any general pronouncements to the HSA staff without prior approval from the board of directors.

The writ states that Mr. Brown denies he was guilty of any unsatisfactory performance or misconduct during his tenure as CEO of the HSA and it gives explanations as to why he took the actions he took.

With regard to Dr. Robertson, the writ states there was an urgent operational necessity to transfer her and that that timing and execution of the move were carried out in accordance with advice from the HSA medical director and from the HSA Human Resources Department.

The writ states that whether Mr. Brown failed to use diplomatic skills in his dealings with Marjorie and Edward Bodden and Sheridan Brooks needed to be considered in light of the circumstances.

Mr. Brown asserts that Mr. Bodden ‘became confrontational and abusive’ after being told that the HSA was moving away from a brokerage arrangement for air ambulance services to a single source of delivery, which is why it was seeking tenders for the contract.

With regard to Ms Brooks, the writ states that she attended Mr. Brown’s office uninvited and unannounced and ‘claimed that the Cayman Islands Hospital was a public building and that she had a right to be in the plaintiff’s office’. When asked to leave, Ms Brooks ‘refused and became antagonistic’, the writ states.

The termination of Ms Gomez is covered at length in the writ, which states it was Mr. Brown’s understanding that her position had been described as redundant as long ago as May, 2003.

On 28 April, less than a month after taking the job and 10 days after telling the board of directors he would recommend a new organisational structure after consulting with senior management, Mr. Brown presented the board with a new organisational chart that indicated Ms Gomez would be made redundant.

Furthermore, the writ states that the HSA’s Human Resources Department reported in May 2006 that ‘Ms Gomez was performing below standard, was close to retirement and did not show sufficient potential to contribute to the future’ of the HSA.

In July 2006, the writ states, that the Ministry of Health confirmed that Minister Eden had no objection to Mr. Brown implementing his proposed organisational structure.

‘Ms Gomez was informed of the options available to her, including retirement on financially attractive terms,’ the writ states. ‘However, Ms Gomez refused to accept the situation and refused to indicate the terms upon which she wished her contract of employment to conclude on.’

Eventually, after Ms Gomez continued to refuse to accept she no longer had a position at the HSA, she was asked to vacate her office that day and to leave the premises pending a conclusion of the negotiations concerning her severance package, the writ states, adding that this was done after Mr. Brown discussed the situation with HSA Chairman Al Ebanks and HSA legal advisor Douglas Schofield.

The circumstances that then led to Mr. Brown’s dismissal began on 19 September after Mr. Ebanks sent a memorandum to Mr. Brown requesting the tape recording of the senior management meeting held the day before, as well as copies of all tape recording and minutes of senior management meetings held since 1 July, 2006.

When Mr. Brown did not respond, Mr. Ebanks made the same request by memorandum the next day. Mr. Ebanks subsequently asked for all tape recordings of section supervisor meetings and of a meeting between him and Mr. Brown.

In the writ, Mr. Brown contends the requests for the tapes by Mr. Ebanks were unreasonable ‘since no reason or reasons were provided by the chairman for the request’. The writ also states that ‘the extent of the material requested was onerous and in the absence of any stated reason, its breadth suggested that the purpose of the request was to enquire as to how [Mr. Brown] was conducting his meetings with senior management and with section supervisors, which in the absence of a specific complaint about a specific meeting, was unjustifiable interference with the authority delegated to [Mr. Brown] to manage the [HSA].’

Mr. Ebanks wrote another memorandum to Mr. Brown on 26 September requiring him to deliver all the requested tapes and minutes to the HSA Board meeting the following afternoon.

Mr. Brown states in the writ that he told the board that he was unaware of any resolution by the board of directors directing Mr. Ebanks to make the requests he made, and that he was of the opinion that turning over the requested materials would be a breach of his obligations of confidentiality to the HSA unless he was directed to do so by the board.

The writ notes that Mr. Brown did not categorically refuse to hand over the tapes, but that he would hand them over if the board requested him to do so.

In his termination letter of 2 October, Mr. Brown was told he was being dismissed for gross misconduct and insubordination for refusing to turn over the request tapes and minutes.

Mr. Brown was allowed 20 minutes to clear his office of his personal effects and to leave the premises.

Mr. Brown is being represented by Robert Jones of Ritch and Conolly. Mr. Jones said Tuesday that the attorneys for the HSA – Campbell’s – had not yet replied to his requests for confirmation of whether or not they had instructions to accept service of the proceedings.

HSA Chairman Al Ebanks said on Tuesday night that he had yet to see the writ and that he could therefore make no comment on it.

However, Mr. Ebanks did address the issue about who would represent the HSA in action.

‘Campbell’s have been representing us all along, and we’ve had no indication that that would be otherwise,’ he said.

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