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Woman rejected as parks director asks court for damages

A civil servant rejected for the job of Director of Parks despite being strongly recommended for the post has asked the Supreme Court for compensation.

Terry Lynn Thompson said she was “universally recommended” for the post in 2018 after she had served in an acting capacity for almost a year.

The court heard the Public Service Commission at first recommended Ms Thompson should work a six-month trial period as Acting Director, but changed its mind.

Mark Diel, who appeared for Ms Thompson, told the Supreme Court the PSC had recommended the best candidate the first time and the later about-face was wrong.

He said: “To now come back before this court and swear affidavit evidence and make submissions that she is somehow not of sufficient merit, despite the fact that the ministry unanimously recommended her for the post, is reprehensible.

“You don’t go around slagging off people’s reputations to make a bad point good.”

Mr Diel added in an online session of the court last Wednesday that Ms Thompson was selected by an interview panel from 22 applicants for the director’s job.

Ms Thompson had already served as Acting Director for almost ten months and no problems had been brought to her attention.

The PSC deferred their decision until they could have a meeting with Christopher Farrow, the then Acting Permanent Secretary for Public Works, who they questioned about Ms Thompson’s management style.

Mr Farrow told the PSC that he was confident that any concerns about her management approach could be handled.

Mr Diel said: “The PSC then recommended that she should act as director for another six months with bimonthly assessment and therefore defer the final decision for another six month period.”

He said the decision was not “logical or rational” as the appointment to the substantive role would carry a mandatory six-month probation period, and that period could be extended if needed.

Mr Diel said the PSC later received a report of complaints about Ms Thompson’s management style, but the commission continued with the appointment process.

Ms Thompson was not told of the complaints or given a chance to respond to them.

Ms Thompson’s six month trial period was scheduled to begin in December 2018 and she signed off on a development plan.

But Mr Diel said that days after she signed on to the plan Randy Rochester, who had become the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Public Works, told the PSC he wanted to “withdraw the application”.

The PSC withdrew its recommendation for Ms Thompson’s appointment.

Mr Diel said: “There was no proper basis to withdraw the application. The real basis was for the sole purpose of trying to prevent the applicant from holding the position that this ministry unanimously recommended her for.

“That is the epitome of illogical, irrational, abusive, and in breach of fundamental common law rights.”

He added that Ms Thompson was never given any details about the complaints or an opportunity to address the alleged problems.

Mr Diel highlighted that the PSC’s recommendation was never sent to the Governor – who is responsible for the final decision.

He said: “We don’t know, but we assume the recommendations were made to either the PS or the head of the civil service, but they had no authority or remit to do so.

“It is not the business of the ministry, it’s the business of the Governor.”

Mr Diel said the Governor could delegate some powers, but the appointment of a head of department could not be delegated.

He added: “What they tried to do is delegate everything so it all goes over to the head of the civil service.

“The mere fact they have been doing it wrong for possibly decades is not a good excuse.”

Mr Diel said the PSC also had a legal responsibility to consult the Premier before they made a recommendation, which was not done in the case of Ms Thompson.

He said the failures tainted the entire process and Ms Thompson should have been appointed as director and deserved damages.

The case was adjourned until later this month.

• It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. 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.