Last paychecks for civil servant benched since ’99

A Cayman Islands government employee who stopped working for the public sector in December 1998 will receive his last paychecks during this budget year, when he reaches retirement age.

Government budgeted $36,667 to pay Astley McLaughlin up through his 60th birthday, which will occur during the course of the 2014/15 financial year. After that, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said he would come off the payroll.

Mr. McLaughlin, a scientist, was determined to have been wrongfully fired by the Cayman Islands government in a court case that was eventually taken to the U.K. Privy Council. He has been on the public payroll since the council’s judgment, which was made effective as of the date of his official termination – April 1999. His salary range for the position he previously held was between $55,128 and $74,136 per year, according to government records.

East End MLA Arden McLean asked about the continuing payments for Mr. McLaughlin during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee.

“This is a long outstanding [payment] and the person in question will reach 60 shortly,” Mr. Manderson said.

“And this will be the end of it now though?” Mr. McLean asked.

“It takes the individual to age 60 and they will retire from the service,” the deputy governor answered.

Mr. Manderson said the former civil service worker will receive pension payments as normal upon retirement.

“The sins of the past governments, we will pay for them forever and ever,” Mr. McLean said. In 2010, then-Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks indicated no other government agency had any interest in employing Mr. McLaughlin, more than a decade after he lost his job.

In 2007, the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee approved a supplemental appropriation for $766,345 for the settlement of a court order related to the Privy Council case. The funds represented compensation for what the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal had found to be an unlawful dismissal of Mr. McLaughlin from a “senior government position.” The case was ultimately decided following appeals to the Privy Council in July 2007.

Due to the Privy Council’s judgment, then-Cayman Islands Chief Secretary George McCarthy said the government had to pay back salary due to Mr. McLaughlin since 1999.

Mr. McCarthy said in 2007 that Mr. McLaughlin had held a “variety of different government posts” but that his job with the former Ministry of Agriculture, Environment, Communications and Works was made redundant in December 1998. The government tried to reassign Mr. McLaughlin, but there was not another suitable post available, Mr. McCarthy said.

The governor, John Owen at the time, acting on the advice of the Public Service Commission, approved Mr. McLaughlin’s mandatory retirement effective on April 1, 1999, but three months’ salary in lieu of notice was given and he ceased work on Dec. 31, 1998, Mr. McCarthy said.

Although the governor was empowered to dismiss Mr. McLaughlin as a person holding public office under a section of the Constitution of the Cayman Islands, the conditions of service for government workers were regulated at the time by general orders. Those orders provided that Mr. McLaughlin should have been able to make representations to be passed to the Public Service Commission in the event his position was abolished. He was not allowed that opportunity and it caused a breach of the rules of natural justice in the matter, according to the court’s ruling.

Of the more than $766,000 paid to the benched civil servant at the time, Mr. McCarthy said $354,387 of it was for salary and another large portion was for the cost of the various Grand Court, Court of Appeal and Privy Council proceedings. In addition, the Finance Committee approved a sum of $42,527 to cover pension payments that were owed to Mr. McLaughlin.

1 COMMENT

  1. It seems impossible to believe that alternative work could not have been found for him 15 years ago.
    Even if only as a science instructor.
    What a waste of taxpayer money that could have been better spent on so many more worthy projects.

  2. If this is not a lesson that shows if the Government had only followed the correct procedures then it would not of cost this country an extra penny; but no someone had to do it unfairly and the conclusion is there to see. I congratulate Mr McLaughlin for standing up for his rights against the might of the government and the courts finding in his favour. It is only when more people do this then the Government might learn its lesson.

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