A heated Legislative Assembly exchange Monday over the fate of a Cayman Islands senior prisons manager brought warnings against “politicizing” the public service from Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.
Mr. Manderson was asked repeatedly about how much the public sector had to pay to resolve the case of Deputy Prisons Director Aduke Joseph Caesar, whose nearly two-year saga of losing, then regaining her job, being suspended and then regaining her job a second time has been the subject of significant public debate and review.
Mr. Manderson said the government had paid $39,000 toward Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s legal fees and has paid additional amounts in back salary and pension benefits.
“The Ministry [of Home Affairs], the prisons director, have all put in place the necessary policies and procedures to ensure that [Ms. Joseph-Caesar] returns to work in a very structured manner,” Mr. Manderson said.
During Monday’s proceedings, East End MLA Arden McLean sought to determine whether the government had violated any laws in dismissing Ms. Joseph-Caesar in November 2015. Mr. McLean also asked whether the government had attempted any other “interventions” in Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s case since her reinstatement.
“I feel very strongly that we’re going down a path where we are bringing civil service matters into this House where [they] do not belong,” Mr. Manderson said. “It doesn’t help the civil service one bit.”
Mr. Manderson, as he has done in recent years, cautioned against politics intruding on government’s hiring, firing and internal disciplinary matters.
“Nowhere do I see that this House is mentioned as part of the appellate process … for hiring, firing, any of those matters,” he said. “We do not want … a politicized civil service where Caymanians are saying, ‘If I go to certain members of parliament, I can get this, I can do that.’
“When we started bringing certain matters … why did we hire this [person], why didn’t we do this, why didn’t we do that? …. [It’s] not how these things should be carried out.”
The deputy governor said he believes MLAs do and should have a right to question, as they did last summer, why the civil service had so many workers (31 at the time) on required leave (suspension with pay).
“That’s what I should be held accountable for,” Mr. Manderson said.
Mr. McLean said he was “amazed” by the response and indicated he had never questioned civil service management issues unless those matters were raised in public forums before coming to the Legislative Assembly.
Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s case has received significant coverage in the media for more than a year following allegations that she placed a hidden camera in prison custodial manager Nina White’s office to detect claims of Ms. White’s “inappropriate behavior” with prisoners. Ms. White has denied all such accusations.
“[Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s case] was kicked from pillar to post in the public,” Mr. McLean said. “It became a public matter that I have a particular interest in. There’s no way that the deputy governor can come down here to chasten us with regard to what we can do and can’t do … in regard to the public interest.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin offered some support to his political opponent, Mr. McLean, indicating that he did not believe parliamentary questions could be “circumscribed” to preclude questions regarding certain civil service issues.
West Bay MLA Bernie Bush also asked whether the deputy governor would agree to investigate Ms. Joseph-Caesar’s case in connection with some other complaints filed with the Gender Equality Tribunal which alleged Ms. White had received favorable treatment in her position.
“Is there going to be an investigation into all this that’s going on at the prison? Because something is obviously wrong and it needs investigation,” Mr. Bush asked.
“I don’t share that opinion,” Mr. Manderson said. “I think the prisons director and his team [are] doing a great job. We owe them some grateful thanks.”