Prisons official reinstated

A deputy prisons director who was fired in November 2015 over an incident in which another prison staffer was videotaped in the course of what was described as a covert investigation has won reinstatement.

According to a consent order issued by the Cayman Islands Grand Court on June 22, Aduke Natalie Joseph-Caesar was never officially terminated from her post and “remains engaged in the position of deputy director of prisons until such time as she resigns or her employment is lawfully terminated.”

The Cayman Islands government consented to pay Ms. Joseph-Caesar all arrears of salary, vacation leave and pension contributions owed since the date of her termination, Nov. 2, 2015. In addition, government has agreed to pay $24,000 in legal costs related to the firing.

On Friday, Ms. Joseph-Caesar indicated that she intends to return to work following the signing of the consent order.

“I’m excited to continue the evidence-based rehabilitation work my team and I started, but I feel some amount of trepidation that this may be short-lived,” she said. Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Wesley Howell declined to comment on the matter Friday. Prisons Director Neil Lavis was contacted for comment on the consent order, but did not respond by press time.

The government has the option in this case to resume disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Joseph-Caesar and terminate her employment in the prescribed manner if she does return to work. If that occurs, according to the Public Service Management Law requirements, she would be placed on paid suspension again to await her fate. Ms. Joseph-Caesar, touted to be a rising star as a young Caymanian in the prison service, was terminated over her role in video recordings of another prisons employee in that employee’s office. The camera was set up inside an air conditioning duct in the office.

When news of the investigation became public, Mr. Lavis said it was “regrettable” that the prison employee’s privacy had been invaded. Two other prison officers were suspended in connection with the same incident. It is understood that one of the officers has since been reinstated and the other, the employee who was being videotaped, has left the prisons service following the expiry of her contract.

Ms. Joseph-Caesar was terminated following a decision by former Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush after a review of all the evidence.

However, according to various civil service employment laws governing the subject, while Mr. Bush had the authority as chief officer to appoint Ms. Joseph-Caesar, he did not have the authority to terminate her employment. That authority is granted under the Prisons Law to the prisons director. Ms. Joseph-Caesar alleged in a request for judicial review filed against the government in January that this set of circumstances made her firing “illegal” and void.

Mr. Bush has told the Cayman Compass that he questioned the way the law was written. “I have the power to hire her, but not the power to fire her,” he said.

“The chief officer [of the Ministry of Home Affairs] acted illegally when he decided to, and did, conduct disciplinary proceedings,” the judicial review filing states, indicating that these proceedings should have been instituted by Mr. Lavis.