Sacked airport finance chief Shelley Ware is taking legal action to get her job back and clear her name following allegations of wrongdoing.
Ms Ware, the former financial controller of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, is asking a judge to review her dismissal, claiming the airports authority board acted unlawfully and unfairly when she was fired in December.
Ms Ware is asking to be reinstated as chief financial officer of the airports authority and be compensated for loss of salary and pension contributions. She also is seeking a public apology from the board acknowledging that she was wrongfully terminated and any allegations of misconduct were incorrect.
In an application for judicial review filed with the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, lawyers acting for Ms Ware argue that the airports authority board exceeded its authority as a supervisory body when it dismissed her.
Counsel further alleges that there was no factual basis for the board’s decision to dismiss Ms Ware and that the move was against “natural justice” because she was given no opportunity to dispute or explain the findings of an internal audit report, which was used as the basis for her dismissal.
She was fired by chairman Richard Arch on 7 December during a board meeting and by letter, the application states.
It adds that only Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Jackson, who himself was suspended “on or around the same day”, had the power to fire Ms Ware, under the terms of the contract. The application paperwork also highlights several concerns over the airports authority’s justification for her dismissal.*
“The decision to terminate the applicant’s employment was made on the basis of an internal financial auditing report undertaken by a member of the board of directors,” the court filing states. “The applicant was given no opportunity to respond to the findings of the report or address the board of directors …
“The applicant disputes the findings published in the internal auditing report and any allegations that she was guilty of serious misconduct,” the petition continues.
Concern is also raised that someone from the airports authority, with access to the audit report, leaked it to North Side legislator Ezzard Miller, who then passed it on to a news organisation.
The application states that the airports authority board had been “ignorant of their legal powers” in believing they had the authority to dismiss a member of staff.
It also suggests the board acted outside its statutory power by conducting an internal audit of the airports authority, which was undertaken by a member of the board.
Outlining the history of the case, the application states that Ms Ware was hired by the CEO of the authority in November 2009. It highlights aspects of the Airports Law empowering the CEO to employ staff and outlining his responsibility for disciplinary procedures.
It states that Ms Ware was fired by the chairman of the board of directors, Mr. Arch, rather than the CEO on 7 December, 2012. She was later informed by Kerith McCoy, the acting CEO of the airports authority, of the reasons for her termination in a letter dated 4 January, 2013, stating the authority reserved the right to dismiss her for serious misconduct.
The basis of Ms Ware’s legal action is that the airports authority board did not have the legal power to fire her, had acted in a procedurally improper manner by not giving her chance to respond to allegations of misconduct and had erred in suggesting there was any factual basis for terminating her contract in the first place.
The application asks that the CIAA be ordered to:
Reinstate Ms Ware to her former position
Remove any finding of misconduct, improper behaviour or poor performance from her employment record
Pay any salary she would have earned from the date of her termination to the resumption of her employment
Pay any pension contributions she would have accrued over the same period.
Issue a public statement saying she was wrongfully dismissed, has been reinstated, any findings of misconduct were incorrect and she was an exemplary employee
Make a declaration that the CIAA acted “ultra vires” (beyond its powers) in dismissing Ms Ware and in declaring it would have dismissed her for serious misconduct
Make a further declaration that the CIAA’s decisions were unreasonable and against natural justice
Make any further relief the court thinks just