NRA, former director settle lawsuit

A settlement agreement has been reached in a 2015 lawsuit filed by former Cayman Islands National Roads Authority Director Brian Tomlinson against his former employer, the Cayman Compass has learned.

National Roads Authority board chairman Donovan Ebanks confirmed Tuesday that the matter had been settled out of court. Mr. Ebanks said the NRA was represented by outside counsel selected in a process overseen by the solicitor general’s office. The solicitor’s office said Tuesday it was not directly involved in the lawsuit and could not comment.

Mr. Ebanks declined to provide further details, but said he would review questions about it from the Compass over the next two weeks and respond with further information if possible.

Contacted for comment Monday, Mr. Tomlinson declined to discuss the matter, saying the settlement is confidential.

In the writ, filed in February 2015, Mr. Tomlinson alleged a number of examples of “mistreatment” that he suffered at the hands of his employer. He blamed the alleged mistreatment for a “serious deterioration” in his health. Mr. Tomlinson was NRA managing director between 2007 and 2012.

The lawsuit alleges various implied contractual breaches, including a “duty not to act without reasonable cause in a manner calculated or likely to damage or destroy the relationship of confidence and trust between [the National Roads Authority] as employer and Mr. Tomlinson as employee.” The matter was never taken to court, so the claims in the writ were never proved or disproved.

The lawsuit alleged:

That the National Roads Authority “threatened” to fire Mr. Tomlinson in 2008 when he objected to the appointment of attorney Steve McField, who was an NRA board member at the time, to provide legal services to that same board. “Mr. McField was annoyed with the objection and sought to have Mr. Tomlinson dismissed,” the lawsuit states

That the roads authority “tried to persuade” Mr. Tomlinson to approve a subdivision road construction project by a specific paving company in October 2010 “despite the paving company’s material failing to comply with [NRA] standards.” Mr. Tomlinson alleges that the deputy chairman of the NRA board at the time, Troy Whittaker, tried to persuade Mr. Tomlinson to approve this job

That the NRA “circumvented” Mr. Tomlinson’s authority as director by having other subdivision roads built by the same company. It is alleged that Mr. Tomlinson’s deputy at the time ended up approving the contracts “without Mr. Tomlinson’s knowledge”

That the NRA again sought to have Mr. Tomlinson’s contract “terminated” when he responded to an open records request “concerning the paving of roads and parking lots in Cayman Brac.” It is further claimed that “[the board] intended to dismiss Mr. Tomlinson until they received a letter from the Freedom of Information Office confirming that Mr. Tomlinson’s actions were lawful”

That Mr. Tomlinson was dismissed following an incident that began in 2012. According to the writ: “Mr. Tomlinson reported to the Cayman Islands governor an irregularity between the then-Premier McKeeva Bush and the Collector of Customs [Carlon Powery] which involved the collector of customs approving an importation of illegal explosives on instruction from the premier despite Mr. Tomlinson refusing the importation. “In his role with [the NRA], Mr. Tomlinson was responsible for the approval of all imports of explosives into the islands and his actions had been perfectly correct. However … Mr. Tomlinson was informed by Richard Christiansen, a licensed blaster, that [Mr. Tomlinson] had ‘not pleased’ the premier and the premier would seek to have him removed from his post. Mr. Tomlinson’s employment was terminated on Nov. 30, 2012 with the [roads authority] giving inconsistent reasons of budget cuts on the one hand and sickness absence on the other.”

Allegations denied

Former Premier Bush has denied the claims made in the Feb. 16, 2015 lawsuit that he was “ultimately responsible” for Mr. Tomlinson’s removal.

Former Customs Collector Powery also stated that claims made in Mr. Tomlinson’s suit mischaracterized his involvement in the February 2012 importation of blasting materials to Grand Cayman.

Mr. Bush said that at the time Mr. Tomlinson served as NRA managing director, the authority did not fall under his government ministry. “I don’t know anything about when he left, what he did or what he didn’t do,” Mr. Bush said. “I certainly had no discussions with him and I had no discussions with anyone about him. I didn’t hear when he left there until months later, but since the publication of the lawsuit, you’re hearing all sorts of things.

“I wasn’t the minister responsible and certainly I don’t know anything more [about the dismissal] than what I heard.”

Mr. Powery said, “The collector of customs has no authority to approve the importation of explosives or any restricted item and the goods [referred to in the lawsuit] remained there until a permit was obtained by the importer.”

Mr. Bush was arrested in connection with a police probe of the dynamite importation in December 2012, along with Suresh Prasad, but he was never charged with any crimes. Eventually the company responsible for the importation – Midland Acres – was fined over the incident. Mr. Prasad was never convicted of any offenses related to the importation.