— Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson
The no-nonsense tone of the deputy governor’s recent circular — wherein he put Cayman’s civil servants on notice that being rude, unresponsive or worse to members of the public can lead to dismissal — is a welcome development, worthy of applause.
That being said, we (and, most likely, many in the civil service) will believe the content of the memo only after someone is actually fired. The deputy governor’s written warning is a good first step, but one that is meaningless if he doesn’t take the second step.
An online Cayman Compass poll, published Jan. 30 and cited in Mr. Manderson’s memo, engendered an overwhelming — and overwhelmingly negative — reaction from respondents wishing to weigh in on the quality of government’s customer service. As one commenter pithily put it, “Answer your d%&# phones!”
Another was more elaborative: “Too often I have been ignored after a long wait in line for service. It seems chatting to colleagues, doing nails, checking the iPhone are all more important [than] what they are paid to do.”
If the deputy governor is seeking out suitable candidates to “separate,” the biggest challenge might be choosing where, amid a target-rich environment, to start his search. Our suggestion, based on the degree of importance of the agency and the magnitude of its sins, is that Mr. Manderson consider beginning with his old haunt across the street, the Immigration Department, which he led from 2004-2009.
More than perhaps any other public entity, Immigration serves as government’s primary point of contact with many thousands of Cayman residents, over whose lives the department regularly exercises a direct, practical and controlling influence.
As evidenced by statements delivered during the trial of former Work Permit Board secretary Tichina Rickfield (formerly known as Sunshine McLaughlin), who was acquitted by a jury of all charges against her of deliberately altering board documents, Cayman’s Immigration Department is government’s perfect storm of bureaucracy, bullying, backlogs and backbiting. Indeed, it seems the only fate worse than being forced to work with Immigration is working for Immigration.
A cavalcade of witnesses — including Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans (herself on “paid leave” following allegations of official wrongdoing), board director Sherryl Miller, former board chair Lemuel Hurlston, former board chair Sharon Roulstone and Mr. Manderson himself — painted a picture of absolute dysfunction within Immigration, teeming with piles of unfinished paperwork and cadres of vendetta-pursuing colleagues, amounting to, in brief, a toxic workplace. (One that, we’ll note, cannot be attributed to the poisonous influence of outsiders, considering that 100 percent of Immigration employees are Caymanian.)
As a result of the pandemonium reigning within Immigration, Ms. Rickfield, who according to most accounts was a diligent and respected worker, suffered for five years under clouds of suspicion, during which time she was on suspension yet continued to draw her full salary from the public treasury.
Ms. Rickfield’s expensive ordeal raises additional serious questions about the conduct of Immigration officials (who did not provide police with documents that supported Ms. Rickfield’s position until after her defense team requested them), the decision-making ability of Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards (for whom this failure to secure a conviction represents another squandering of public resources and time) and the snail’s pace of Cayman’s judicial system in general.
But as far as Mr. Manderson’s caveat on customer service is immediately concerned, we propose that he procure a directory of Immigration employees, pick up his telephone and start dialing, until he reaches someone who picks up the handset, mutters something semi-intelligible, and slams it back on the cradle. Then the deputy governor should clap on his coat and hat (it’s breezy outside), walk the few hundred yards from the Government Administration Building to the Immigration office, and demonstrate his ability to do what must be done.