Log In

Reset Password

Staff mutiny warning over proposed Director of Parks, court hears

The Public Service Commission rejected the recommended candidate for the Director of Parks post after staff threatened to walk off the job, the Supreme Court heard.

Terry Lynn Thompson launched legal action against the PSC after she was passed over for the position.

But on Friday the court heard that unionised staff said her management style was “disrespectful” and “condescending”.

Richard Horseman, who appeared for the PSC, said once Randy Rochester, the Permanent Secretary, withdrew his recommendation, the PSC had to do the same.

He said: “It’s the PS, under the regulations, that makes the recommendation to the PSC. The PSC was faced with a position where the PS has withdrawn that recommendation.

“At that point, the PSC felt it had no alternative but accept that, particularly in light of everything that had gone on.”

Ms Thompson applied for the post of director in 2018 after she had been in the role in an acting capacity for almost a year.

She argued that she should have been appointed to the permanent post as she was “universally recommended” by an interview panel, but the PSC decided to defer the decision until she had spent six months acting in the position.

But the PSC withdrew its recommendation before the six-month period had started.

Ms Thompson said the PSC had acted irrationally and failed to give her an opportunity to respond to complaints.

But Mr Horseman said the PSC had acted properly and made efforts to give Mr Thompson chances to address concerns over her management style.

He said that the body had recommended she serve as acting director for six months.

He said: “They were not satisfied at that time, due not just to the previous feedback they had, but discussions with Permanent Secretary Christopher Farrow about her managerial style.

“It was entirely within their rights and within their power to say they were not prepared at that particular point to appoint her, but that they did want to give her a chance and give her an opportunity.”

Mr Horseman said a development plan was drawn up to help address the worries about Ms Thompson’s management style, but the PSC received a letter in September which warned that staff were opposed to her appointment.

He said workers complained of unprofessional behaviour towards staff and that Ms Thompson was disrespectful, condescending, bullying and unwilling to listen.

The letter said unionised staff from the Bermuda Industrial Union and Bermuda Public Services Union were asked to give her a chance, but the unions responded that she had been given enough chances.

Mr Horseman said: “The PSC didn’t give up the ship. They said no, lets keep on track and give Ms Thompson a chance to go through this development plan.”

He said that when Randy Rochester became the PS for the department he attempted to act on the PSC’s recommendation, but was told by staff that Ms Thompson’s appointment would lead to a staff walkout.

Mr Rochester said in an affidavit that he met union representatives and was “vehemently reminded” of the concerns about Ms Thompson.

Mr Rochester wrote: “I was reminded of the consequences if she was appointed to the post, which in no uncertain terms would mean a walkout of the staff at the department.

“It was a result of these concerns expressed by staff regarding Ms Thompson being appointed that I determined this was an obstacle I could not overcome.

“I was not about to expose the Governor of Bermuda to potential labour withdrawal.”

Mr Horseman said Mr Rochester withdrew his recommendation because the appointment of Ms Thompson was contentious and the PSC felt it had no alternative but to follow suit.

Mark Diel, the counsel for Ms Thompson, said the PSC had breached its duty by failing to make a recommendation to the Governor.

But Mr Horseman said the rule did not apply to the appointment of acting posts.

He said: “The Governor has delegated that power to the head of the civil service. This was a power exercised.

“There was nothing unlawful or ultra vires about it.”

Mr Horseman added that there was no legitimate expectation that Ms Thompson would be appointed as director because the concerns about her management style – and the need for a development plan – were clearly conveyed.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams said she would issue her findings at a later date.

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.