An unexplained investigation. An unexplained absence. An unexplained retirement.
Roydell Carter’s 25-year-plus career in the Cayman Islands civil service, apparently, is over. But government officials have not yet begun to provide adequate information to Cayman’s public about the circumstances surrounding the departure of the director of the Department of Environmental Health or the (presumably ongoing) auditors’ inquiry into the important and embattled agency, which has responsibility for the country’s landfills and garbage collection.
Government officials are mistaken if they hope that handing Mr. Carter the proverbial gold watch will erase public memory or satisfy legitimate curiosity about the DEH’s seemingly chronic dysfunction.
Since late 2017, (when we learned the DEH was spending $100,000 per month in overtime for routine garbage collection), it has been one misfire after another – spotty garbage collection, a missing department head, confusion over derelict vehicle disposal – any one of which would be sufficient cause for a full and public accounting.
Instead, the public has been treated to flimsy and unsatisfying explanations that have shifted over time. At various points in the drawn-out saga, we were told to blame a lack of functional garbage trucks, shortage of staff, employee absenteeism, illness and vacation, personnel management and backlogs created during previous weeks.
Mr. Carter’s unexplained leave occurred at roughly the same time the Internal Audit Service conducted an inquiry into his department’s management of overtime. In fairness, these two events may have been contemporaneous but unrelated. In January, Ministry of Health Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn denied that Mr. Carter’s leave was the result of disciplinary action. However, she declined to offer any clarification whatsoever about the actual circumstances.
When announcing Mr. Carter’s retirement, Ms. Ahearn doubled down on government’s obfuscation, saying simply: “Mr. Roydell Carter has opted to retire from the civil service. The current Acting Director Richard Simms will continue to act in that role while we undertake the process to identify a new Director for DEH.”
She did not respond to follow-up questions inquiring about Mr. Carter’s nine-month hiatus or whether any financial settlement had been involved. She would not even tell a reporter how long Mr. Carter had been employed.
Ms. Ahearn’s opaque remarks on the circumstances surrounding nine months of “absenteeism” by a high-ranking civil servant borders on disdain for the public that employs her and, we would argue, that she is entrusted to inform.
Also unacceptably silent on this long-festering matter are Minister Dwayne Seymour, whose responsibilities include the Department of Environmental Health, and Acting Governor Franz Manderson, who oversees the Civil Service.
By no measure can nine months of unexplained absence by a highly visible, highly paid public servant be considered a “private personnel matter” that is, in effect, “none of the public’s business.”
The Cayman Compass has requested relevant information – including the cost to the public purse of this entire matter – through an open records request, the results of which, readers can be assured, we will disclose.
The public has a right to know what went wrong in the DEH to cause such a tumultuous year, and what – specifically – is being done to ensure the department is run efficiently, effectively and professionally going forward.