Evans hits back over ‘dismissal’

  • Freddie Evans is taking legal action against the Ministry of Education (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Freddie Evans is taking legal action against the Ministry of Education (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Freddie Evans is taking legal action against the Ministry of Education after being “relieved of his responsibilities” as education commissioner.

There is also confusion about whether Dr Evans had been properly dismissed from his job.

Mark Diel, of the lawyers Marshall Diel & Myers, confirmed yesterday that the firm had been instructed to issue proceedings against the Ministry of Education and John Rankin, the Governor, “for declarations that our client’s employment has not been terminated in accordance with his contract or at all”.

Mr Diel added: “We are further instructed to issue proceedings for libel against the ministry and the permanent secretary.”

The letter, sent to multiple island media organisations yesterday, followed an e-mail from Permanent Secretary of Education Valerie Robinson-James to principals and teachers on Monday.

Ms Robinson-James said in the e-mail, seen by The Royal Gazette: “This is to confirm that Freddie Evans has been relieved of his responsibilities as Commissioner of Education.”

The permanent secretary added: “The post of Commissioner of Education is under consideration and you will be advised of the way forward in due time.

“Any critical issues can be forwarded to the administrative assistant in the Office of the Commissioner of Education who will forward them to the permanent secretary.”

A statement on Dr Evans was also issued by the Ministry of Education on Monday night.

A spokeswoman said: “The Ministry of Education can confirm that Dr Freddie Evans has been relieved of his duties as Commissioner of Education.

“However, the ministry would like to assure the public that an interim plan is being put in place until the Board of Education commences a recruitment process.”

But Mr Diel said yesterday: “Reports have been made that he was ‘dismissed’ and ‘ousted’. Regardless of which wording has been used by the ministry and variously by the media outlets, the statement issued by the ministry is wrong and the statements are libellous.

“To date, our client has not received any letter of termination/dismissal etc.”

Mr Diel claimed Dr Evans’s contract made it “crystal clear” that the only person who can remove him is the Governor.

“And this can only be done during his period of probation,” he added.

Mr Diel said Dr Evans’s probationary period ended on September 30. He added: “We can further confirm that our client has not received any communication from the Governor, whether written or oral, nor any individual acting on his behalf.”

According to an October 2 letter from the Public Service Commission to Dr Evans, and provided to this newspaper, the appointing authority confirmed it had reviewed a 15-page rebuttal provided by Dr Evans in response to a final probation report submitted by Ms Robinson-James.

The commission agreed, in line with its probationary regulations, that it would recommend that Dr Evans go back to his former position as Assistant Director of Education.

The statement from Mr Diel also warned media outlets that they would face legal action unless a retraction written by the legal firm was published.

Mr Diel said: “If you publish the said retraction we are instructed that our client will waive any claim for damages against you.”

But Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said on Monday night: “I am aware that the position of the Commissioner of Education is now vacant.”

Further details of the circumstances surrounding the matter were not immediately provided by the minister.

Mr Rabain added: “It is important to note that myself as Minister of Education has no responsibility for operations, human resources or hiring at the ministry or Department of Education.”

Curtis Dickinson, chairman of the Board of Education, did not respond to a series of questions about Dr Evans by press time.

Government House and the Ministry of Education also failed to respond to questions on who had the power to fire Dr Evans, whether a letter of termination had been sent to him and when his probation period expired.

Dr Evans, who took over as Commissioner of Education in March, served as acting commissioner for three years in a rotation that included Lou Matthews, who has since resigned, and Llewellyn Simmons.

Dr Evans told The Royal Gazette when appointed that he was “absolutely dedicated” and looked forward to a decade or more in the job. A 33-year veteran of the public education system, he was described by a source as popular with many teachers and parents.

But the department source added that Dr Evans had only reluctantly been given the role, with leadership believed to be more in favour of a foreign candidate. The source said Dr Evans’s work had been hampered from the start by conditions imposed from above.

The previous commissioner, Edmond Heatley, was recruited from the United States in 2013 but resigned eight months later.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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