Kenneth Bryan, who until last Friday was Premier Alden McLaughlin’s political assistant, abruptly confronted that distinction when he was fired by the premier. In August, Mr. Bryan faces a criminal trial over allegations that he verbally assaulted police outside a nightclub last October. (Mr. Bryan has pleaded not guilty.) He was charged in early December and had been on paid suspension until his termination.
Premier McLaughlin explained that Mr. Bryan couldn’t discharge his duties adequately while he was facing serious charges.
Our sympathies are with both men.
First, Mr. Bryan remains innocent until proven otherwise. The loss of position and income may pose real hardships on him and his family, with difficulties exacerbated by the matter pending before the courts. As he asked rhetorically, “Who’s going to hire me before this trial?”
The Premier, of course, understands this as well. However, we have no quarrel with his decision.
It is the Premier’s right — indeed his duty — to enforce the terms of employee contracts – including exercising the option of termination. (We’ll note here that Mr. Bryan is consulting with his attorneys regarding his particular contract.)
If Mr. Bryan had been a civil servant, however, rather than a political employee, he almost certainly would still be receiving his check as his case progresses toward adjudication.
Consider the case, for example, of former Work Permit Board secretary Tichina Rickfield. Ms. Rickfield continued to receive full pay for five years while authorities pursued a criminal investigation against her, culminating in a trial in which she was found not guilty of all charges.
At the highest level of the same department, Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans has been on leave for three months following allegations of misconduct that have now been determined to be “administrative” (rather than “criminal”) in nature. She continues to receive her full paycheck.
Here’s the question: Why do Cayman’s civil servants receive special benefits that are unavailable to political appointees in government – and would be unheard of in the private sector?
We’re not advocating that every civil servant who faces a criminal allegation should be suspended without pay or terminated automatically. Certainly not. Every instance is different and each deserves a compassionate examination.
We’re also not faulting suspended or furloughed civil servants for accepting the ongoing paycheck that is offered to them. (Who can forget the three chief officers — Deborah Drummond, Angela Martins and Diane Montoya — none of whom was ever accused of any wrongdoing — who continued to receive full pay for years before coming to a final settlement with government?)
Our issue is with the people writing the checks, not the people cashing them.
In cases where accusations of misconduct involve Cayman’s often slow-moving justice system, termination or suspension without compensation should be options available to their government bosses – even if that requires rewriting our relevant legal statutes.