Beaten Tucker decries ‘miscarriage of justice’
A veteran teacher and education official said yesterday she was disappointed but not embittered, after a court rejected her bid to overturn the appointment of the Commissioner of Education.
Gina Tucker had argued that she was not given a fair opportunity at the post, which was filled by former CedarBridge Academy principal Kalmar Richards. But the Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the Supreme Court that the Board of Education and the Public Service Commission had acted within their powers over the selection process.
Dr Tucker said that even though she lost the legal battle, she stood by her decision to fight for the best interests of students and her fellow educators.
She said: “Those who know me know I am like my father, Richard Tucker, a very principled person.
“I believe right is right and wrong is wrong. I believe in justice, so obviously I am disappointed by what we believe is a miscarriage of justice.
“Although the judges disagreed, what was done to me by the system was wrong.”
Dr Tucker maintained that she did not believe she was given a fair shot at the job and the trial had highlighted problems with the selection process.
She said: “I tried to address this through proper channels. The only other option was to roll over and accept it, and I have done it too many times.
“I know I'm not the only one being treated unfairly, but it is difficult to stand up.
“I wasn't given a fair crack, but I want Bermuda's educators to know I did this for them, as well as myself, because they deserve someone who is qualified for the role, not someone who gets the job because she is preferred.”
Dr Tucker added that time would determine the long-term consequences of the judgment and she would consider if she could take the matter further.
The comments came after the Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal against a judicial review, which upheld the 2018 appointment of Ms Richards.
Court of Appeal Judge Anthony Smellie said in a written judgment yesterday: “There simply is no proper basis for complaint that Dr Tucker was deprived of a fair opportunity to present or advance her application.
“The recruitment processes in which she participated were well known and common to all the applicants. And as between herself and Mrs Richards, the two shortlisted candidates, the interview process was standardised and the same for both.”
He added: “As Dr Tucker must have been aware from her earlier candidacy, the interviews were intended to inform the BoE's deliberations.
“If she felt that fairness required a further opportunity to address the BoE members in person, she could have asked for that opportunity. She did not do so.”
Mr Justice Smellie said that the selection process was in keeping with the PSC regulations and recruitment code and consistent with the process used for the recruitment of public officers.
He added the recruitment code was “modern, transparent, rational and accountable” and the Board of Education had reasonably used it to form its recommendation.
The appeal court said there was nothing in the process to suggest that there had been bias against Dr Tucker, despite alleged “bad blood” between Dr Tucker and Valerie Robinson-James, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education.
Mr Justice Smellie said: “The PS's participation in the process was necessary and prescribed both by the PSC regulations and the recruitment code, and far from having introduced any element of irregularity, was very important to the proper completion of the process.
“Nor do we consider that there was anything about the history of her relationship with Dr Tucker, to suggest to a fair-minded and informed observer with full knowledge of their interactions cited by Dr Tucker and addressed by the PS that the PS's involvement meant that there was a real possibility that either the interview panel, the BoE or the PSC was tainted by bias against Dr Tucker.”
The decision came as part of a long-running legal battle between Dr Tucker and the education board.
Dr Tucker alleged the process was weighted against her because of disagreements between herself and Ms Robinson — claims the board has denied.
Dr Tucker brought her complaint to the Supreme Court for a judicial review, but Assistant Justice John Riihiluoma dismissed the case in February.
Mr Justice Riihiluoma said in a written judgment: “I can find no actionable fault in the process used by the Board of Education in its role in recommending Ms Richards to the Public Service Commission for the post of Commissioner of Education.
“It follows that I find there is no fault in the process that would vitiate the Public Service Commission's recommendation of the appointment of Ms Richards as Commissioner of Education to the Governor.”
Dr Tucker brought the matter to the Court of Appeal where Mark Diel, her counsel, argued that the use of an interview panel to select a candidate was at odds with the legislation.
He said that the Board of Education had the responsibility to consider the merits of the candidates and their application but instead abdicated the responsibility to an interview panel.
Mr Diel added the process resulted in a breach of duty, and argued that Mrs Richards did not have the required academic qualifications for the post, but Dr Tucker did.
But Delroy Duncan, for the Board of Education, said the board considered and discussed the application process and approved it on a unanimous basis.
He added that the board also had “robust” discussions about the applicants — both those shortlisted and those not — and their relative merits before they approved Ms Richards for the post.
Mr Duncan said that the board also had the option to restart the process if they were unhappy with the result.
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