EDITORIAL – Civil service: Judges are not HR managers

In 1987, on the heels of yet another losing season for the Detroit Lions NFL team, then-head coach Darryl Rogers famously exclaimed, “What does a guy have to do to get fired around here?”

A similar expression of exasperation could be articulated in the context of the Cayman Islands civil service.

Consider the following excerpts from a story in Wednesday’s Compass: “Loretta Doralyn Grizzel, an executive officer in Department of Children and Family Services in Cayman Brac, pleaded guilty to stealing $16,050 [from the department] over a two-year period.” … “Grizzel was arrested and interviewed in October 2015 and made full admissions. She was suspended from work, but was asked to come back in December 2015.”

That’s right. A government employee stole money (intended to pay for clients in residential care homes), admitted to the theft … and then was allowed to return to work. For the record, Grizzel has now been sentenced to one year in prison.

Although it is disgraceful to steal taxpayer money meant to benefit a vulnerable segment of the population, the primary focus of this editorial is not the Grizzel case. Our broader concern is the appearance of the following trend in the civil service: the conflation of the “criminal standard of guilt” with the “professional standard of employment.”

On numerous occasions, we watch as civil servants are accused, arrested and charged with illegal activity — yet remain on the public payroll, or even in their positions (sometimes of considerable influence) until and unless they are convicted in court.

The threshold for dismissal of an employee is not equivalent to criminal charges, convictions or prison terms; rather, it is an independent standard set by the individual employer that, in general, can be described as “acceptable professional behavior.”

During the hearing of the Grizzel case, a Department statement referenced a directive issued in late 2015 by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, stating that individuals placed on required leave for disciplinary reasons were to be returned to duty in a different capacity.

It is difficult to reconcile that supposed directive with Deputy Governor Manderson’s February 2015 announcement that “Civil servants who consistently provide poor customer service will be required to separate from the Civil Service,” or his February 2016 declaration that “Inadequate performance continues by some staff. I have, therefore, made dealing with poor performers my top priority for the year.”

We hope that Deputy Governor Manderson’s “required leave” statement does not represent the codification of lowered standards for the civil service.

As stated above, this issue is not limited to the Grizzel case. Take, for example, the Cayman Brac customs officer arrested on suspicion of possessing an unlicensed firearm. After the arrest, Customs Collector Charles Clifford admitted he couldn’t take any disciplinary action against the officer — that, bizarrely, would have to come from Brac District Commissioner Ernie Scott … who elected to remain silent on the matter.

Or consider the litany of legal accusations lodged against top Department of Immigration officials, some who remain on paid leave (including Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans, who faces allegations of “administrative” misconduct) and some who are still working (including Deputy Chief Immigration Office Garfield “Gary” Wong, who has been charged with DUI, careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident without reasonable cause, in relation to a December 2013 two-vehicle traffic accident).

And of course, there’s the “racing inspector” from the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing, who crashed a car he was test driving on July 11. As of last month, the vehicle inspector was still working at the department. In mid-September, police submitted a case file to public prosecutors to consider whether charges will be pursued.

We could go on … Instead, we’ll conclude with a quote from American performance consultant Tony Robbins: “The quickest way to improve your life is to raise your standards.”

The same holds true for organizations. As does the reverse.

The quickest way to diminish respect and regard for the entire civil service is to lower the standards for employment within the civil service.

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  1. Truly the mind boggles! Exactly what does a person need to do in order to be fired from their job in the civil service? Could they stab their boss to death in the office and still remain in their post, with full pay, until formally convicted several years later? Ok, that might be a bit extreme, but come on! Stealing at work and you still get to stay in your job?

  2. Now Mr. Manderson where in this world in your employment , do poor customer service performance and would require seperation , but a criminal offence you can stay on the job or payroll . This sounds like as long as you can give good customer service , you can do whatever you want and your job and pay is secured.

    I think that we need a qualified professional HR to make and enforce new rules for civil servants, not politicians . I think that in my job and lot of people job if we stole a candy we can be terminated without pay .
    Why do you think that there should be 2 different kind of standards, one civil and one for private sector in criminal matters on the job / work place .

  3. Just thinking about how civil servants matters are handled when one have to be separated / terminated from their job . Why does it have to be that all civil servants have to go through the Court system to be taken of the payroll / terminated ? Is it that Government don’t have a Lawyer in HR ? OR is it just to tie up the courts and give Attorneys opportunities to make money of the dismissal.
    I think that in the private sector when a employee commit a crime or violation of company rules termination happens in the office, and the only time the private company would have to use the court system , is in unfair dismissal / terminated case’s , this why the private company would have their Attorney present in the dismissal to make sure that it’s fairly handled and don’t have to end up in court .