Helicopter job talk ‘disheartens’ premier
Raging debates on local talk-back radio shows and within the confines of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly building over the past several weeks regarding the hiring of Caymanians put the public spotlight on whether a young man should be given a job as a police helicopter pilot.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said earlier this month during a debate over the government budget that the man is not currently qualified for the position.
“The last thing that I wanted to do … was to deal with this matter on the floor of the House,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The 22-year-old Caymanian, Darren McLean, is the nephew of East End MLA Arden McLean, who during his budget speech in the Legislative Assembly late last month said his nephew had dreamed of being a helicopter pilot ever since he was a child.
Mr. McLean said his nephew had gone overseas to receive training and applied to join the Royal Cayman Islands Police Air Support Unit but was “disregarded.”
The East End MLAs comments were used as an example in discussion of a larger issue. Mr. McLean said young Caymanians who go to university and receive training often find there are no available local jobs when trying to enter the workforce. Many of these young people are forced to go overseas to find employment as local jobs are filled by non-Caymanians, Mr. McLean said.
Mr. McLean’s comments about his nephew elicited a lengthy response from the premier, who read out government memos that detailed RCIPS and government officials’ efforts to assist Darren McLean with his training and job placement dating back to 2012.
In the end, the premier said, the RCIPS helicopter pilot’s job required at least 1,000 hours of multi-engine turbine helicopter flight. Darren McLean, he said, had less than 200.
“For the member to say that the government didn’t offer any assistance [to his nephew] is simply an untruth,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “In addressing the matter in this manner in this House, in my view the member did a disservice to his nephew, the civil service and this House. In the almost 14 years I have been here, I have never heard any member of this House so openly and blatantly use their position as an elected member to seek to further the interests of their family. It is an abuse of the office and one that ought not to be condoned by this House.”
Mr. McLean was contacted for additional comments relative to the premier’s remarks, but he had not responded by press time.
Civil service concerns
Later on in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee proceedings, Mr. McLean raised additional issues regarding local hiring, stating that the Ministry of Home Affairs should seek to put a Caymanian in its chief financial officer post.
Mr. McLean, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush have, at different times over the past year in the Legislative Assembly, advocated for Caymanian hiring in various government jobs. In some instances, specific individuals have been named, in others they were not.
Last October, issues regarding the hiring of a new managing director at the Information and Communications Technology Authority, an appointment to the registrar of lands position and the appointment of a permanent customs collector were all brought to the fore, culminating in an argument between Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Mr. Bush over the customs job.
Seeking to fill the post with a Caymanian appointee, Mr. Bush proposed a motion that would have made the customs department’s budget approval contingent upon hiring a full-time customs collector “from within these islands.”
Deputy Governor Manderson raised lawmakers’ ire with his response to Mr. Bush’s motion, when he was asked about it by another finance committee member. “That motion infringes on the governor’s and my responsibility for the civil service in that we are now putting MLAs in a situation where they are now dictating the requirements, or dictating to me who I should employ, and that cannot be right,” Mr. Manderson said.
Following the discussions over Mr. McLean’s nephew and the chief financial officer’s post within the Ministry of Home Affairs, other top civil service managers raised concerns privately regarding MLAs’ “interference” with civil service appointments.
According to the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009, the governor is the titular head of the civil service, but in practice the governor delegates that responsibility to the deputy governor (formerly the chief secretary). Elected members of the Legislative Assembly control the budget for the government service and make funding allocations based on recommendations from civil service departments. Officially, they do not become involved in hiring individual civil service workers.
An emphatic point was made earlier this year regarding the practice of separating civil service workers’ hiring from the elected arm of government when two former top government managers received what amounted to millions of dollars in payouts following their 2009 removal from office.
The precise terms of the agreements with former Health Ministry Chief Officer Diane Montoya and former Deputy Financial Secretary Deborah Drummond, who have been on required leave since 2009 and have been receiving full pay since then, were not revealed in a statement from the deputy governor’s office. Ms. Montoya and Ms. Drummond will take early retirement from the civil service, effective July 1. That means they will no longer be on required leave status with the government, being paid while on suspension from their jobs, as has happened over past several years.
The amounts paid to the two civil service officers as part of the “amicable” settlement were not stated. Mr. Manderson clarified that the two women are entirely blameless in the situation that was created when they were removed from their posts.
In January 2010, the Compass revealed that three high-ranking members of the civil service who held chief officer positions under the former People’s Progressives Movement government were placed on required leave following the election of the then-United Democratic Party government. Former Education Ministry chief officer Angela Martins, Ms. Montoya and Ms. Drummond continued to receive pay at Grade C level – between $127,000 and $148,000 per year. Ms. Martins retired in 2011, but the other two civil servants continued to receive payment while on required leave from their government employment.
For the two former chief officers who have remained on required leave since 2009, their payments would be around $1.25 million in salary and pensions using the lower end of the salary scale, between 2009 and this year.
If they both continue to receive salary and pension allotments at that rate for the next five years, again using the lower end of the pay scale as an example, it would cost the government another $1.4 million. If they receive pay for longer than that, the amount would obviously go up.