Prisons deputy back to work after ‘hidden camera’ investigation

Government agrees to settle case

After a nearly two-year process during which she was suspended, fired, reinstated, then suspended again, Cayman Islands Deputy Prisons Director Aduke Joseph-Caesar is going back to work.

Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s attorney Clyde Allen said Friday that a settlement had been reached with government following a review in which “no findings of misconduct” had been made against his client in relation to an April 2015 incident at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward.

Aduke Joseph-Caesar

That incident, according to multiple documents seen by the Cayman Compass, related to Ms. Joseph-Caesar giving instructions to a junior prisons officer to install a camera in the office of then-prisons custodial manager, Nina White.

A separate document reviewed by the Compass indicated that Ms. Joseph-Caesar would face no further disciplinary action as a result of that incident.

Ms. Joseph-Caesar, contacted by the Compass on Friday, declined to comment on the settlement. Mr. Allen said the terms include the prison deputy’s return to work on Feb. 20 and an agreement that she would take no legal action against the prisons service or the government in relation to the matter.

Ms. Joseph-Caesar was fired in November 2015 over the hidden camera investigation, about six months after she was placed on required leave [suspended with pay]. She was reinstated by a June 22, 2016 Grand Court order, which stated she had never been officially terminated from her post and that she “remains engaged in the position of deputy director of prisons until such time as she resigns or her employment is lawfully terminated.”

The court ordered the government to make back payments of salary, as well as pay for Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s attorneys, a total of $24,000.

On July 1, 2016, an email sent to prison staff managers by Director Neil Lavis indicated that the Grand Court ruling did not mean Ms. Joseph-Caesar was returning to work. She was placed on required leave again on July 25, 2016 until the new investigation was completed.

Neither Mr. Lavis nor Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Wesley Howell commented on the reasons for the second suspension.

When news of the hidden camera 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 incident. It is understood that one of the officers was reinstated and the other, Ms. White, left the prisons service following the expiry of her contract.

In a written ruling of the local Gender Affairs Tribunal, obtained by the Compass in November 2016, it was revealed that Ms. White was a family friend of Prisons Director Lavis.

The four-member tribunal ruled Nov. 3, 2016 that four male custodial managers at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward were paid about 2 percent less in annual salary than the female prison supervisor, Ms. White, and were not given a motor vehicle upkeep allowance as she was. The tribunal ruling also stated that the female supervisor, Ms. White, was a family friend of Mr. Lavis and that she had been a member of Mr. Lavis’s staff in the U.K. between 2000 and 2004.

According to the tribunal records, Mr. Lavis informed the government hiring interview panel of his relationship with Ms. White before she was hired and that the other members “did not see this as a conflict of interest which would prevent him from sitting on a panel to interview her.”

“[Ministry of Home Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Kathryn] Dinspel-Powell also confirmed that [Mr. Lavis] had informed the ministry of his friendship with Ms. White prior to the interview,” the tribunal documents stated. “She stated that the ministry wasn’t concerned with a material conflict because it was a panel of four persons and given the experience of the persons on the panel, any possible conflicts would be balanced out because they would know who would be a good fit for the positions.”

The tribunal was incredulous about these claims: “The tribunal found it difficult to understand why, if these various disclosures of the director’s prior relationship with Ms. White had been made, this had not been noted in the [job] interview notes or elsewhere …. In fact, it appears that the relationship was not disclosed in these proceedings until a letter from the Attorney General’s Chambers dated Aug. 4, 2016 [responded] to a query by the counsel for the complainants [the four male prison managers].”

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  1. I am glad to see some resolve to this unfortunate lingering issue. I think lashing out or accusing Mr. Lavis of doing anything is unfair. Many people make hires based off of prior professional relationships. Why should this be an issue. The department he inherited, as we all know, was in rough shape. If we continue to chastise those who are trying to make things better for the island, we will continue to chase good-willed, talented people away. I hope Mrs. Joseph-Caesar and family can move forward and the negativity against those trying to help, stops.