Cabinet Secretary Takes Government to Court
Embattled Cabinet Secretary, Gemma Bain-Thomas has taken legal action against the one-year old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government over the treatment meted out to her since it took office in February 2013.
Bain-Thomas has instructed her lawyer to file a lawsuit against government through the Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood and the Public Service Commission (PSC) whose newly appointed Chairman is another attorney-at-law, Derek Sylvester.
The senior civil servant has filed paper in court, through former Attorney-General, Rohan Phillip, asking the high court to threat her as someone who has been sent into retirement by the Mitchell admnistration after its 15-0 victory at the polls.
Court documents obtained by THE NEW TODAY newspaper seem to suggest that Prime Minister Mitchell was not prepared to work with her as his Cabinet Secretary from the onset and moved to have Nadica Mc Intyre preside over sittings of his Cabinet of Ministers.
Bain-Thomas, a long standing civil servant, was appointed to the post of Cabinet Secretary during the 2008-2013 rule of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas.
Two days after the February 19, 2013 victory of NNP at the polls, former NDC political strategist, Hamlet Mark who had defected to the Mitchell camp informed her that the new Prime Minister would like to have a meeting with her and a particular Permanent Secretary.
The court documents said: “At around 8.30 a.m on February 21, 2013, I (Bain-Thomas) was informed by Mr. Hamlet Mark (the now Senior Advisor on Information to the Government at my office on the 6th Floor of the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens that the Prime Minister, Dr. Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, will like a meeting at 1.00 p.m with both Mrs. Ann Isaac, the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Disaster Mangement and Home Affairs and I.
“The meeting was scheduled at the Honourable Prime Minister’s private residence at Happy Hill, St. George’s and present at the meeting were the Honourable Prime Minister, Ms. Nadica Mc Intyre, then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and presently the acting Secretary to the Cabinet, Mrs. Veda Bruno-Victor, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mrs. Ann Isac and myself”, she added
According to Bain-Thomas, she provided the new Grenadian leader during the meeting with “a written brief” on matters being handled by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and also handed him a copy of the last minutes of the meeting of the Congress Cabinet of Ministers.
“I answered all questions and queries which the Honourable Prime Minister had and then he indicated that it was a new administration and he needed to be comfortable with his senior public officials. I indicated to the Honourable Prime Minister that I respected that he may wish to have persons he was comfortable with and, as an option, I may be prepared to accept a suitable assignment for this to happen. We agreed in principle that a suitable assignment will be developed to accomodate me”, she told the court.
Bain-Thomas is contending that this did not happen over the past twelve months and she has been pushed around in different positions, as well as humiliated by PM Mitchell who accused her of leaking out confidential information.
She said: “On November 5, 2013, following the completion of a Mangement Team meeting with the Honourable Prime Minister, he asked me to remain for us to have a short meeting. I was then told by the Honourable Prime Minister that he was in receipt of a report to the effect that I was leaking information from the Management Team Meeting and as such he was recomending that I no longer attend such meetings. No evidence was provided to substantiate this accusation and the Honourable Prime Minister acknowledged that there was “no smoking gun”.
“At the said meeting with the Honourable Prime Minister, he also suggested that I can proceed on paid study leave in light of the fact that I am undertaking a programme at St. George’s University. I informed the Honourable Prime Minister that I was not eligible for the grant of study leave based on the existing study leave policy and Union agreement, but he (Dr. Mitchell) indicated that he will discuss the issue further with the Honourable Attorney General.
“I indicated to the Honourable Prime Minister at the said meeting that I am not aware of having leaked out any information, and that the situation was an uncomfortable one and maybe we should sever ties. I further indicated to the Honourable Prime Minister that in light of this development I was going to apply for some vacation leave.
“Following the said meeting with the Honourable Prime Minister I applied for 14 working days vacation leave effective November 6, 2013 because I was forced to come to the conclusion that there is an apparent lack of trust and confidence in me by the Honourable Prime Minister and as such this made it impractical, if not impossible, for me to perform the assigned duties”, she added.
THE NEW TODAY understands that June 5 has been set as the date by the court to hear the Bain-Thomas lawsuit against the Mitchell government and the PSC.
The aggrieved Cabinet Secretary is asking the court to rule in her favour and to grant her a number of relief measures:
(1). A declaration that when Her Excellency the Governor General acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission (PSC) transferred the Claimant (Bain-Thomas) with effect from February 17, 2014 “to hold another post in the Public Service in Grade M to be determined by the PSC”, Her Excellency the Governor General acted irrationally and or unreasonably and or arbitrarily and or surrendered and or abdicated her discretion, each of which circumstances rendered the transfer a contravention of section 85 (2) of the Constitution of Grenada and therefore unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect in law.
(2). A declaration that the decision of the PSC to approve the appointment of the Claimant to the post of Executive Director of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter (Combating) Terrorism Financing Commission (AML/CTFC), Ministry of Legal Affairs with effect from February 17, 2014 was contrary to or a contravention of section 85 (2) of the Constitution of Grenada and is therefore unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect in law.
(3). A declaration that the purported transfer of the Claimant to the post of Executive Director of AML/CTFC, Ministry of Legal Affairs and the circumstances leading up thereto was in reality a termination of the Claimant’s appointment of Secretary to the Cabinet to facilitate the reorganisation of her Department, the Office of the Prime Minister as a consequence of the new administration assuming the government as provided for by regulation 46 of the PSC Regulations, 1969.
(4). A declaration that the post of Executive Director of AML/CTFC, Ministry of Legal Affairs is not a post in the Public Service of Grenada of an equivalent status to that of the Secretary to the Cabinet of Grenada to which the Claimant may be transfered pursuant to regulation 46 (6) of the PSC Regulations, 1969, thus requiring the Claimant to retire from the Public Service of Grenada for the re-organisation of her Department, the Office of the Prime Minister within the meaning of section 84 (8) of the Constitution of Grenada.
(5). A declaration that the Claimant having been required to retire for the reorganisation of the Department, the Office of the Prime Minister, she is entitled to be paid pension and retiring benefits as if she had attained the compulsory retirement age as guaranteed by section 84 (8) of the Constitution of Grenada.
(7). Such further or other order as to His Honourable Court seems just.
Former Director of Budget, and now Manager of the Grenada Co-operative Bank Ltd, Richard Duncan brought a similar lawsuit against a previous Mitchell government in the 1995-99 period and was successful with another former Attorney-General, Dr. Francis Alexis as his lawyer.
Duncan was awarded an undisclosed amount of money in damages and is believed to be paid in excess of $4000. 00 a month by government as an early pensioner.