Firing of civil servant is ruled unlawful

Civil servant LeYoni Junos was unlawfully sacked but not because she was a whistle-blower or the victim of political interference by Premier Ewart Brown, a judge ruled yesterday.

Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley said the 47-year-old was fired without cause as administrator of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Foundation, simply because her employers appeared to wrongly believe her temporary contract allowed them to do that.

The dismissal last April breached the Public Service Commission Regulations and Code of Conduct governing the employment of civil servants.


Civil servant LeYoni Junos was unlawfully sacked but not because she was a whistle-blower or the victim of political interference by Premier Ewart Brown, a judge ruled yesterday.

Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley said the 47-year-old was fired without cause as administrator of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Foundation, simply because her employers appeared to wrongly believe her temporary contract allowed them to do that.

The dismissal last April breached the Public Service Commission Regulations and Code of Conduct governing the employment of civil servants.

The judge said the Government's "straw-clutching submission" that they did not apply to a temporary employee like Ms Junos, who had worked there continuously for about eight months, was "plainly untenable".

He agreed with Ms Junos's claim that she had a legitimate expectation to be employed in the $89,000-a-year post at least until a permanent appointment was made, meaning she is entitled to backdated pay and other benefits from May last year to February 19 this year. She was also awarded costs.

Ms Junos, representing herself, argued during a two-day judicial review earlier this month that she was made a scapegoat because she raised the alarm about the activities of a Department of Tourism contractor with whom she claimed Tourism Minister Dr. Brown had close ties.

Supreme Court heard that US company Henderson Associates Inc. — which is contracted as event planner for ADHT conferences — was believed by her and her bosses to have published "false and fraudulent information" about the foundation, claiming in an e-mail and on a website that it had US charitable status.

She said the Premier verbally threatened her with dismissal after she flagged up concerns and she was fired days after by acting tourism director Ian MacIntyre.

But Mr. Justice Kawaley concluded in his judgement: "The applicant's suggestions that she was the victim of political interference by the Minister or terminated on covert but unjustified disciplinary or other punitive grounds because she was, in effect, a whistle-blower, are not made out."

He said: "In fairness to Henderson, the service-provider which has been much mentioned, there is no basis for any suggestion that the website inaccuracies they were criticised for were motivated by anything more than excessive enthusiasm to start raising funds for the foundation."

Mr. Justice Kawaley dismissed the plaintiff's claim for reinstatement and did not agree that she had a legitimate expectation to have been employed until the legal proceedings began, only until a permanent director was appointed.

He allowed her unlawful sacking claim on the basis that her contract did not entitle premature dismissal and, even if it had, the decision would need to have come from the head of the civil service, not the acting tourism director.

Ms Junos, whom the judge described as having a clean disciplinary record when she left her post, said she was pleased with the unlawful dismissal ruling.

"The light has been shone on the legal regulations that govern employment in the civil service," she said. "I think it will definitely have an impact."

The self-employed historical researcher, of Warwick, said she had "no regrets whatsoever" about the way she dealt with the Henderson matter, which included sending a letter to the ADHT board the day before she was fired describing how the company used "false information" to solicit funds from US donors.

"My instincts were that what was happening was improper. I'm the kind of person that can't sleep at night if I don't give voice to those instincts. That's the kind of person I am, to my detriment sometimes.

"The important thing is having peace of mind and doing the right thing and also paving the way for other persons who may be treated unlawfully as well."

Stuart Hayward, of the Voters' Rights Association, attended the hearings to provide moral support to Ms Junos. He said after the judgement: "I think she's a very brave person. She was courageous to take on what has become dictator-like in terms of people's jobs and carrying out their jobs.

"I'm hoping that it will be a catalyst for other people who have been wronged in their employment... or wrongfully dismissed. I'm very proud of Ms Junos. We would like to encourage others to follow her lead."

Dr. Brown's spokesman said last night: "The Premier has not had an opportunity to read the judgement yet but is pleased the applicant got her day in court, as is the expectation in any thriving democracy.

"It appears, according to media reports, that Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley affirmed much of the Government's case in this matter."

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