MP’s emails prompt warning to civil servant
A civil servant has been disciplined for sharing information with Shadow Attorney General Kim Wilson during a House of Assembly debate.
Dorianne Hurdle was placed on administrative leave early last week after it emerged she'd responded to an e-mail from former boss Ms Wilson, who was Attorney General until the Progressive Labour Party lost the general election in December.
She returned to her post later in the week after admitting misconduct and is expected to receive a written warning for violating Public Service Commission Regulations governing the conduct of civil servants.
Opposition MP Ms Wilson e-mailed Ms Hurdle to ask for details about the post of executive assistant to the Attorney General.
She made the request while debating the topic in Parliament with Attorney General Mark Pettingill on March 11.
Admin worker Ms Hurdle, 43, who works in the legislative drafting department, replied to a question about whether the executive assistant post was advertised.
The violation was discovered when another staff member reported to the permanent secretary in the AG's Chambers that Ms Wilson had made an approach for information, prompting an investigation and the recovery of deleted government e-mails.
A source, who asked not to be named, told The Royal Gazette: “The former AG was sending e-mail requests to this and other staff persons. This particular individual [Ms Hurdle] was found to have been sharing while they [MPs] were sitting in the House during the Budget debate.
“She was not in the House but was being contacted by the Shadow Minister. The e-mails were pulled down and found.
“There were four people that were reached out to by Ms Wilson. One reported it to the PS and the PS initiated the investigation.”
A second source, who also wished to be anonymous, said: “There was a report made to the permanent secretary from somebody in the AG's Chambers about Ms Wilson calling ... people, asking for information about various things, asking for favours.
“One of those people was uncomfortable with the questions that were asked.”
According to the source, the inquiry launched by permanent secretary Kathy Lightbourne-Simmons disclosed that Ms Wilson had reached out to several staff members on a number of occasions since losing office.
“Of course, the rules on loyalty to the Minister, to the government, and disclosure, are pretty strenuous. You can't give any information to a member of the Opposition or member of the public.”
The source accused Ms Wilson of “overstepping the mark” and putting Ms Hurdle in a difficult position by making the approach.
“Kim Wilson should be apologising for putting her in that position. I think it was unfair of her to reach out to former staff and put them in a position that was compromising.”
But the first source said of Ms Wilson: “I don't think she's done anything wrong. Anybody can ask questions of civil servants. It's whether civil servants choose to answer.”
Ms Wilson told this newspaper: “I wouldn't say it's an issue of whether or not I was ethically correct, as I was trying to seek clarification on a matter of public importance.”
She said she was trying to ascertain whether the position of executive assistant to the AG was a newly created public service post and whether it had been advertised.
“I made the overture and I was just seeking clarification. I think the public, particularly at that time, had a right to understand the process.
“In my eyes, I didn't think it was anything about ethics. The public has a right to know whether a public service position was advertised.”
The PLP MP added: “I have made other overtures [to former staff] like 'can I get copies of legislation' but everyone is entitled to do that.”
During the March 11 House debate, Mr Pettingill said the executive assistant appointment “went through the right channels”. He said: “As I understand it, all Civil Service posts are not advertised and that one was not.”
The AG said yesterday he had no comment on the matter involving Ms Hurdle.
Asked for information by this newspaper, Cabinet Secretary Donald Scott wrote in an e-mail: “You are aware that such matters are treated in a confidential manner.”
Ms Hurdle said: “I have no comment.”
Ed Ball, general secretary of Bermuda Public Services Union, was off Island and could not provide comment.
Under the Public Service Commission Regulations 2001, civil servants are bound by Conditions of Employment and a Code of Conduct made by the Governor. The code requires that public servants:
* Assist the Government with integrity, honesty and impartiality;
* Provide loyal service to the Government;
* Uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service;
* Deal with matters in confidence; and
* Observe the Official Secrets Act.