Accusations of criminal conduct against government employees can lead to lengthy paid suspensions, in some cases for years, according to a series of information requests to various government departments.
A Cayman Compass analysis found that government employees received almost 9,000 days of full pay while on suspension since the beginning of 2010.
At least 50 people on the government payroll had been on some kind of suspension since January 2010. The length of these paid suspensions varied from 10 days to five years.
Suspension with full pay is required when employees face criminal charges related to their work, and unless the employee quits or retires, he or she can stay on full pay until the charges are resolved.
Senior Customs Officer Lisa Kelly, responding to email questions earlier this year, wrote, “If a staff member is believed to be involved in criminal activity in the workplace or outside the work place, suspension with pay is to take immediate effect.”
In more than 20 responses to Freedom of Information Law requests, the Compass found seven government employees who were put on paid leave for a year or more. The data collected is not meant to be a complete record of every government department, but a representative sample of how suspensions with pay work in the Cayman Islands government.
The government responses revealed at least 8,913 days of full pay for government employees on suspension between January 2010 and this month.
The FOI responses also revealed another 1,240 days of employee suspensions since 2010, some with pay, others with half pay, and some unpaid, but the Compass could not confirm the payment status of those employees.
In the Customs Department, one employee has been on suspension since 2010, a second has been on suspension since 2011, and a third since last year. All remain on full pay while on suspension for alleged criminal misconduct. As of Tuesday, those employees represented a total of more than 4,100 days of paid suspension, which works out to more than 11 years.
The person suspended in 2010, according to the FOI, earns between $25,000 and $34,000 a year. The person has been on suspension for almost five years, which works out to between $123,000 and $165,000 over that time.
The other two Customs employees are both in the same pay grade, earning between $31,000 and $42,000. One has been on suspension for almost four years, while the other has been on suspension for two-and-a-half years.
Two post office employees were suspended in 2010 for almost a year each for what is listed as “gross misconduct.” They both later resigned.
The Lands and Survey Department put an employee on paid suspension in December 2010. The employee, who faced accusations of fraud and theft, remained on leave until March 2014. The employee, according to the FOI response from the department, was fired “after being found guilty of theft and false accounting.”
The Immigration Department has had one employee on suspension since August 2012, and another three who were put on leave in 2014 and 2015 and remain on full pay.
Government personnel regulations say that if a staff member is suspected of criminal activity on the job, he or she is immediately placed on suspension with full pay until the charges are resolved. If the employee is found guilty, he or she is fired. If the person is found innocent or the charges are dropped, the employee is to be reinstated in a similar position.