Great ‘work’ … if you can get it

Help Wanted: Growing organization seeks applications for a top-level management position. The successful candidate will assume an impressive job title, responsibility for zero functions and supervision of zero subordinates. Total compensation includes an annual salary in the range of $127,000 and $148,000, plus health and pension. Tenure, salary and full benefits guaranteed until the age of 60. Please submit application, résumé and references, and wait by the mailbox for your check to arrive.

That’s a pretty enticing job description. Lest we be flooded with CVs, the Compass is not offering such an employment opportunity, at this time or ever. No private sector enterprise would.

But that’s precisely the arrangement the Cayman Islands government has struck with former Health Ministry Chief Officer Diane Montoya and former Deputy Financial Secretary Deborah Drummond, who were put on “required leave” for no stated reason in 2009.

Since then, they’ve been receiving full pay and benefits for not working. Under the agreement, the two will take official “early retirement” on July 1, and will continue to receive full pay and benefits for not working until they reach the age of 60. Oh, and the government also chipped in to pay at least a portion of their legal costs. (A third civil servant, former Education Ministry Chief Officer Angela Martins, was also put on leave in 2009, following the government’s transition to United Democratic Party control. In 2011, Ms. Martins took early retirement at the age of 57.)

As usual, the government is trying to avoid divulging the exact cost of the settlement, which of course is coming from public funds. However, quick calculations indicate that, when it’s all over, taxpayers will have shelled out several millions of dollars to Ms. Drummond, Ms. Martins and Ms. Montoya — receiving virtually nothing in return — and all because the UDP government breached the electrified fence separating elected politicians from the civil service.

It’s the latest example of Cayman’s public sector running amok at the public’s expense. Borrowing a construct from former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, when did government “of the people, by the people, for the people” become, in Cayman, government of the government, by the government, and for the government?

When was the tipping point when the Cayman government’s stance defaulted to one of antagonism, or at best indifference, toward the people it was created to serve?

In the entire Drummond-Martins-Montoya saga, nowhere does there appear to have been any consideration of the public interest — not in the ladies’ dismissal, not in the years of paid leave, not in the settlement, and certainly not in the government’s ongoing attempts to conceal all of the above.
What happens next is the Compass, and probably others, will have to play the government’s game of open records requesting in order to bring further information to light. This will only waste more time and resources.

We’ll add that, in addition to the three ladies’ arrangements being alien to anything extant in the private sector, the deals that they got are also far superior to what would be available to the typical rank-and-file civil servant.

In addition to a public/private dichotomy, there is also a distinct class difference between high-level government managers and their underlings.

Here’s the obvious question: Once the government figured out it couldn’t remove the three women from the public payroll, why were they not ordered back to work?

The simple answer is … Because it was just easier to pay them.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. What is happening in this country is that there is too much political intervening by too many people wearing High Hats; exploiting discretionary powers and wrongfully taking this power to force good employees out of their work for political unjustified reasons.
    In the recent case one may wonder why in all the years as water flowed under their bridge, that these employees were not found other jobs. However those of us who are quite aware of what is taking place need to realize that sadly Politics run things on this Island. It is simple, if you never supported my campaign then you must die of hunger and thirst. Look around you and see the many persons whom are victims of political powers. Even many Caymanians whom were making meager salaries of 2,000 a month were victims of such powers. For Gods sake how can we continue to be so cruel to one another.

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  2. Where do I fill out an application… I have worked since the age of thirteen in the private sector and have never seen this. 41 years of employment and not once has anyone offered me this kind of deal…

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  3. Compass editorial board — in your campaign to trumpet the greatness of the private sector over government, you again completely miss the mark.

    We’ll add that, in addition to the three ladies’ arrangements being alien to anything extant in the private sector…

    I take it the Compass has never heard of a Golden Parachute — high level executives being paid millions to leave office? Presumably you don’t remember the financial crisis, when big banks were giving out million dollar bonuses to the same people who destroyed the global economy?

    If this were the private sector these women may not have gotten a yearly salary for doing nothing, they just would have been given a few million as a one time severance package.

    The Compass is absolutely right to call this kind of wasteful spending to the attention of the public, and to try to hold government accountable for it. But to say that this sort of thing is exclusive to the public sector is simply laughable. Put the conservative slant to the side. If you want to call out this situation as problematic, please do so, but don’t use it as another means of spreading your government bad, private sector good propaganda. Waste and nonsense and greed happen everywhere.

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