Editorial for September 4: Nice job, Mrs. Dilbert

We’re not sure which Cayman Islands civil servant takes more abuse with less praise on a daily basis, but it is probably a close call between the chief immigration officer and the information commissioner.

The local news media rarely, if ever, write about the tremendous responsibilities and strains such important government positions can place on one’s life. Perhaps we as a community are at fault in too often viewing these people as faceless bureaucrats and not as actual human beings.

However, at this newspaper, we recognize the challenges these individuals face in their daily lives and careers and congratulate them on a job well done from time to time.

Jennifer Dilbert, in her nearly five years as Cayman’s first information commissioner, has conducted herself with skill and grace. It is a unfortunate, in our view, that she will no longer be on the job after the end of this year.

But don’t just take our word for it. At what is believed to be the first regional conference in the Caribbean on the subject of Freedom of Information, held in Kingston last March, Mrs. Dilbert’s efforts and those of her hardworking staff were recognized as leading the way in the entire region with regard to open records and credible information management. Representatives of the Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, praised Mrs. Dilbert and the Cayman Islands as a shining example in development of FOI in the Caribbean.

More often than not, what we read about in the newspaper regarding Mrs. Dilbert’s office and FOI is the latest instance where the information commissioner has revealed mistakes or mismanagement in the open records process by public authorities. She has not pulled punches in describing such situations in the past, and we don’t imagine this approach has won the long-time civil servant many friends among her contemporaries.

Mrs. Dilbert also overturned a decision by her then-boss, former Governor Duncan Taylor, not to release certain records related to the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation. Mr. Taylor’s initial decision, at least in certain parts, was “not justifiable in a democratic society,” according to the commissioner’s evaluation of the matter. The issue has been taken to court by the governor and has so far cost Cayman Islands taxpayers nearly $50,000 in lawyers’ fees.

Such toughness is to be respected in the information commissioner’s position. However, what is also to be admired is the patient and upbeat manner in which Mrs. Dilbert has handled all things FOI. Her office has tirelessly worked to inform and educate the civil service, as well as the general public, on what FOI is, how to use it and why it is important. It is because of that work, we believe, that the open records movement will continue in Cayman long after Mrs. Dilbert’s departure from her post.