Kirkland Nixon, chairman, Cayman Islands Airports Authority Board
Mr. Nixon, we couldn’t agree more.
We, of course, are referring to the revelation, as reported on the front page of Friday’s Compass, that an unknown number of airport employees, over an unknown number of years, received “severance packages” upon retirement, totaling an unknown amount of dollars.
Mr. Nixon, a veteran civil servant whose tenure as board chairman began in mid-2013, after the practice of giving out severance payments ended, succinctly stated the obvious problem with the previous situation: “People don’t get severance payments when they retire.”
Well, apparently people used to at the Airports Authority. We are awaiting more precise figures, and officials are now investigating previous years, but as of now we are aware of “fewer than 10 cases” where retirees received such payments, some totaling tens of thousands of dollars, during the 2012/13 budget year.
The fact that we know of “fewer than 10” retirees who received these payments is not exculpatory. If all retirees received them equally, at least there would have been a policy of equity. Why were these 10 (or fewer) singled out for special largesse. And, by the way, who were they?
Our point here is not to dwell upon the tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money that was inappropriately distributed to a select few public servants. It is, in the grander scheme of government’s finances, relatively small change. Although, over time those misspent nickels, quarters and $100 bills eventually accumulate – and sooner than later we’re measuring those funds in terms of missing jetways.
Rather, our purpose of highlighting this story is it is merely the latest in a never-ending series of government officials’ cavalier, blasé attitude toward taxpayers’ funds. The underlying problem is they seem to regard our money as “free money” to be dispersed, or dispensed, with abandon and without accountability.
Now, the legend of Robin Hood makes for a riveting tale, and there is a certain allure to the romantic notion of “robbing from the rich to give to the poor,” but in practice, Robin Hood was little more than a common criminal. Generosity, paid for unwillingly with someone else’s money, is more closely related to a felony than it is to philanthropy.
It is highly doubtful that the “severance payments” – which by law and convention are given to employees who have been downsized or wrongfully terminated, not when they retire – in the instance of the Airports Authority could be considered as “performance payments” for jobs well done.
Recall the long-running controversy between past board members and authority leaders (primarily ex-CEO Jeremy Jackson) where serious accusations of mismanagement and corruption were aired. Or witness the sub-standard, sardine-like conditions in the departure lounge of Owen Roberts International Airport. Or just try – we double-dare you – to use the automated kiosks to pay for parking at the airport.
From the parking lot, to the terminal, to the end of the runway, Owen Roberts is an obvious mess. (As always, we exempt from our criticism of the airport the ever-trusty porters and courteous curbside baggage valets.)
Come to think of it, perhaps the Airports Authority Board was on to something with their idea of “severance payments.” What the airport needs, however, is a little more “severance” and a lot fewer “payments.”