Government appoints Cayman’s first ombudsman

Sandy Hermiston

Sandy Hermiston of Canada has been appointed as the first ombudsman of the Cayman Islands, a position created under provisions of the Ombudsman Law, 2017.

Ms. Hermiston will serve as Complaints Commissioner and Information Commissioner, overseeing the areas of open records and maladministration complaints against government that were previously handled by those offices. She will also oversee data protection and whistleblower legislation.

Her duties will include investigating and resolving complaints made by the public against public bodies.

Ms. Hermiston, who is currently general counsel for the Ombudsman and Public Interest Commissioner for Alberta, Canada, is expected to begin her new role on Sept. 13.

Cayman’s last full-time Complaints Commissioner, Nicola Williams, left her post in January 2015. Jennifer Dilbert, the territory’s last full-time Information Commissioner, retired on Dec. 31, 2013. Jan Liebaers has been acting Information Commissioner since Ms. Dilbert’s retirement.

Ms. Hermiston has more than 30 years of experience as a lawyer, 27 of those years in public service. Her career includes work as the general counsel for the Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers’ Compensation and as corporate counsel for the Workers’ Compensation Board of the Northwest Territories.

The ombudsman’s purview, under the provisions of the new Cayman law, will cover all government ministries, portfolios, departments and sections, statutory authorities and government companies.

She will also act as the independent oversight body for the police by receiving and investigating complaints made by the public, pursuant to the Police (Complaints by the Public) Law, 2017.

“I look forward to working on behalf of the people of the Cayman Islands to help make a positive difference in their lives,” Ms. Hermiston said in an official statement. “I embrace the opportunity to lead this office through a period of change and expansion of its remit. These are exciting times.”

Ms. Hermiston was chosen from a short list of five candidates from the pool of 31 applicants.

Members of the selection committee included Governor Helen Kilpatrick, Sophia Harris of Solomon Harris law firm, and Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for England.

“We are very pleased to have attracted a public servant with Ms. Hermiston’s proven leadership skills. She has a wide variety of experience of government oversight, including fairness, whistleblowing, freedom of information and complaints against professionals,” Governor Kilpatrick said.

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