Acting collector returns to immigration
The start of 2015 brought the Cayman Islands government no closer to hiring a permanent leader for one of its largest and most lucrative departments, Cayman Islands Customs, nearly three years since Customs Collector Carlon Powery retired.
Acting Customs Collector Samantha Bennett returned to her former position at the Immigration Department on Monday after spending a little over a year heading Customs under a secondment posting. It appeared Ms. Bennett would not be given the full-time job.
According to a government statement issued last week, Ms. Bennett participated in the Ministry of Finance’s fifth recruitment process for the job. The recruitment process was supposed to have ended in October 2014.
“No candidate was appointed and it has been decided to continue the recruitment process in 2015,” the statement read. In the meantime, Deputy Customs Collector Collie Powery will assume the acting collector position, which he held prior to Ms. Bennett’s arrival in November 2013.
Regulations attached to the Cayman Islands Public Service Management Law state that no one can serve as an “acting” member of the civil service staff for more than 12 months at a time. Ms. Bennett was in her position at customs for 14 months.
Carlon Powery, the former collector who retired in May 2012, served at Customs for 40 years. Since his departure, at least three acting collectors have filled in while the government conducted numerous recruiting exercises.
The fifth issuance of advertisements for the collector’s job aimed to fill the position by Oct. 31, 2014, according to ministry Deputy Chief Officer Anne Owens.
The fourth round of advertisements, with an annual salary of between $105,000 and $126,000, had been sent out in late 2013. Three previous attempts to hire a new head of Customs failed when government rejected all of the applicants.
Ms. Owens said at the time that the reason for not filling the position was because no applicant met all the requirements.
The collector of customs – a critical position in the Cayman Islands government – acts not only as revenue collector from imported goods, but also as the person who prevents the illegal movement of items into and out of the islands.
Ms. Bennett’s return to the top ranks of the Cayman Islands Immigration Department comes at a time of upheaval in the agency.
In recent weeks, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson agreed to extend the paid suspensions of two senior immigration officials who were placed on what is known as “required leave” in November and December of last year.
Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans is being investigated in regard to a number of alleged administrative violations, and Immigration’s director of boards and work permits, Kimberley Davis, is being investigated for alleged administrative violations.
Both women will remain on paid leave until the investigations are completed.
Another senior official, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Garfield Wong, faces a criminal trial later this year related to charges of drunken driving in a December 2013 incident. He has not been suspended from his post because the allegation involves traffic offenses.
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith is filling in during Ms. Evans’s suspension.