Gov’t: Firefighter still being paid
Cayman’s top firefighter is seeking the Grand Court’s permission to challenge what he said was his forced retirement from the service earlier this year, a decision he claims he was never allowed to contest.
Meanwhile, government officials, in a statement sent to the Cayman Compass Tuesday, denied that the acting fire chief, Rosworth McLaughlin, 55, had been terminated from his post and confirmed he is still receiving a government salary.
According to documents filed with the Grand Court, Mr. McLaughlin is asking for a judicial review hearing in which his lawyers will seek to quash an April 29 decision by Ministry of Home Affairs chief officer Eric Bush to retire Mr. McLaughlin.
The retirement was ordered to “improve the efficiency of the Cayman Islands Fire Service,” according to court records.
Mr. Bush stated he had made no such decision as yet and that the court action had been filed in the midst of negotiations with Mr. McLaughlin over a “settlement package.”
“[Mr. McLaughlin] prematurely lodged an appeal with the Civil Service Appeals Commission, although no final decision was made by [the government] in relation to the employment of [Mr. McLaughlin],” the statement from Mr. Bush read.
The judicial review application is premature, the government argued, because Mr. McLaughlin is still being paid and therefore cannot have been retired.
Mr. McLaughlin, a deputy chief fire officer who was named acting fire chief last year, also claims in the court filing that the Civil Service Appeals Commission refused to hear his appeal against the April 29 decision. Mr. McLaughlin’s request seeks monetary relief for what he terms the “unlawful and unconstitutional actions” taken against him.
“Such damages should reflect loss of income, loss of prospects of promotion, contravention of [Mr. McLaughlin’s] rights, disadvantage in the employment market, smear of [Mr. McLaughlin’s] reputation and loss of opportunities and emotional distress,” according to the judicial review application filed on July 23.
Fire service review
The alleged decision to retire Mr. McLaughlin, according to court records, appears to have been based at least partly on a consultant’s review of the Cayman Islands Fire Service. The study was done by the U.K.’s chief fire and rescue adviser, Peter Holland.
Mr. Holland was in Cayman earlier this year to discuss certain issues his review had identified within the local fire service, but a full report of that evaluation has never been made public. Mr. McLaughlin stated in court documents that he has never seen it either.
“Implicit in the decision of [the ministry chief officer, Mr. Bush] is an adverse finding with respect to the performance of [Mr. McLaughlin] and his suitability to hold the post of deputy chief fire officer and/or chief fire officer,” Mr. McLaughlin’s judicial review filing states. “No opportunity was given to him, prior to the decision to retire him, to respond to any evidence or allegation to that effect.”
The Civil Service Appeals Commission’s decision not to hear the case amounts to a refusal to carry out a statutory duty, according to claims made in the judicial review application. However, according to the government statement, the commission could not properly hear the case because he had not been retired.
“Due to these circumstances the Civil Service Appeals Commission declined to accept the appeal,” the statement read.
East End MLA Arden McLean raised questions about Mr. McLaughlin’s status with the government during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee in June.
Mr. McLean said it was announced earlier this year that Mr. McLaughlin was on sick leave. That leave coincided with the temporary reappointments of former fire chiefs Roy Grant and Kirkland Nixon, with Mr. Grant as acting chief fire officer and Mr. Nixon as a strategic adviser. Mr. McLaughlin, who had been acting fire chief for the past year, was still on extended sick leave at that time, according to government representatives who spoke in finance committee.
The chief fire officer’s post has recently been advertised.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said during finance committee proceedings that, “To the very best of my knowledge, Mr. McLaughlin was afforded every opportunity to apply for that post. As far as I know, we have a sick leave certificate that extends Mr. McLaughlin’s stay away from the office until early July.”