EDITORIAL – The alarming departure of Fire Chief Hails

We will not waste space debating the propriety of departing Fire Chief David Hails receiving more than $40,000 in compensation pay accrued during his three years in the Cayman Islands, other than that it appears to be entirely proper and in line with department practice.

Of far more importance is the unauthorized disclosure to a media outlet of Chief Hails’s confidential personnel records, in the form of line-item entries from the government’s Time Recording System.

This question is for Deputy Governor Franz Manderson: What is government doing to identify the leaker and hold him or her accountable? It is imperative that government find the source of the leak, and stop it.

Whoever turned over Chief Hails’s personnel records does not appear to have acted as a whistleblower attempting to bring misdeeds to light, but as a hatchet-wielder dealing a personal blow to an individual on his way out of the jurisdiction.

The government’s latest failure to safeguard supposedly confidential documents threatens Cayman’s reputation for legitimate privacy and information security, a cornerstone of our financial services sector.

The next time government agents come knocking on residential or business doors, seeking sensitive private information for whatever purpose – survey, census or questionnaire – public officials ought not to be surprised if people slam those doors (metaphorically) in their faces.

The government’s routine assurances that private or proprietary information, voluntarily proffered, would remain confidential is fast becoming a hollow promise.

For example, recall the government’s erroneous dissemination of private information on two new Grand Court judges in 2017, the Immigration Department’s distribution of detailed information on all work permit holders in 2015, and, of course, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s sending out of “Gold Command minutes” in 2007, jumpstarting the Operation Tempura fiasco.

On the flip side of government’s failure to protect private information concerning Chief Hails, is government’s failure to share public information concerning Chief Hails – i.e., his departure.

The Cayman Islands Fire Service is entrusted with the sacred duty of preserving the health and safety of Cayman’s population. For the public not to have a clear idea of the leadership of this agency is evidence of gross incompetence or dysfunction spreading far beyond the government’s legions of official news outlets, information managers, public relations staff and designated spokespeople, and extending to the level of chief officers, ministers and Cabinet. (For the record, the relevant Chief Officer is Dax Basdeo; the minister is Tara Rivers; and the premier is Alden McLaughlin.)

In response to a reporter’s direct inquiries, the Ministry of Home Affairs would only confirm that Chief Hails’s last day was Thursday, coinciding with the expiration of his three-year contract, that an “acting fire chief” would be announced Friday, and that the ministry was searching for an interim chief fire officer.

Readers may recall that Chief Hails’s departure is occurring about six weeks after he called for an official investigation into a November incident where fire officers – including Deputy Chief Officer Brevon Elliot – allegedly mishandled the landing of a 767 jet at Grand Cayman’s airport, and where fire service records on the incident were later altered.

The hush-hush approach to Chief Hails’s exit is a continuation of a trend where government has refused to provide basic details about the resignation, retirement or departure of top public officials, including Governor Anwar Choudhury, CINICO CEO Lonny Tibbetts, Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter, and National Roads Authority Managing Director Paul Parchment … amid or following investigations, audits or other allegations.

All of these former high-level public servants should be able to leave their posts with the dignity (or lack thereof) they deserve, certainly not behind a firewall of silence which leads inexorably to public speculation and suspicion.

1 COMMENT

  1. Just to set the record straight.

    As someone who received the Gold Commanders’ report in 2007 and went on to be part of Operation Tempura I can tell you with absolute certainty that not only are the two not connected but the release of those minutes was an innocent example of ‘finger trouble’ that should have served as a warning to all official bodies not to use email to pass on sensitive information.