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Headteacher dismissed by Public Service Commissions

Headteacher dismissed by Public Service Commissions


Information reaching SEARCHLIGHT is that headteacher Otto Sam has been fired from the public service, following the findings of a tribunal set up by the Public Services Commission (PSC).{{more}}

The tribunal, set up to look into complaints made by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey, found that Sam was guilty of the charges of misconduct, laid against him on August 12, 2012.

As a result, Sam was, with effect from Wednesday, May 15, relieved of his position as headteacher of the South Rivers Methodist School. He was also relieved of his assignment at the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO).

SEARCHLIGHT understands that Sam’s letter of dismissal was hand delivered to him on Wednesday.

The letter, dated May 15, 2013, and signed by Chief Personnel Officer Kattian Barnwell, informed Sam that he had 28 days from receipt of the correspondence to lodge an appeal.

In August last year, Sam was suspended with half pay, as a disciplinary inquiry was instituted against him, for the letters he wrote to local media, on July 24 2012.

He was at the time assigned to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

In one of Sam’s letters to the media, he described NEMO, as “an interesting organization”, which at the time, he said, had not had a staff meeting since September 2011.

His letter also alleged a brawl among staff members; incidents where staff members were insulted; warning letters being issued for being 15 minutes late from lunch, and the absence of internal evaluation and development programmes.

The appearance of the letter in the nation’s newspapers prompted NEMO director Howie Prince to request permanent secretary Pompey to evaluate Sam’s letter, citing that such correspondence could bring NEMO into disrepute.

This led to Sam’s suspension, and subsequent tribunal hearing.

The outspoken Sam had indicated at the time of his suspension that he would not be intimidated.

It is unclear if Sam appeared before the tribunal, or if he was represented at the hearing.

Efforts to contact him up to press time were futile.

Sam had been transferred to NEMO on August 30, 2010, from the South Rivers Methodist School, where he was headteacher.

At the time of his transfer, the former president of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union had been a teacher for 30 years.

Sam’s transfer to NEMO followed an unannounced visit made to the South Rivers Methodist School by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves on March 21, 2010. SEARCHLIGHT understands that during that visit, Gonsalves did not first report to the headteacher’s office, which is the policy of the Ministry of Education for all visitors to academic institutions.

Gonsalves is the parliamentary representative for North Central Windward, which includes South Rivers.

Following the visit of the Prime Minister to the school, Sam wrote to Gonsalves, pointing out the alleged flouting of the Ministry’s directive. The chief education officer, it is said, then asked Sam to apologize to the Prime Minister, which Sam refused to do.

According to the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the tribunal, in its report to the PSC was expected to say, whether in their opinion, the officer had committed the offences charged and give a reason for their opinion. They were also required to give any aggravating and/or mitigating features of the matter.

The law states that the tribunal shall not suggest the punishment to be imposed by the Commission; the Commission is expected to determine its own actions.

The three-member tribunal consisted former director of audit Cecily Saunders, assistant director of Public Prosecutions Colin John, and retired police oofficer Aldrick Williams.

The chairman of the Public Service Commission is lawyer Cecil “Blazer” Williams. The other members are Pastor Adolphus Isaacs, attorney-at-law Stephen Williams, retired educator Annelle Thomas and businesswoman Gwenneth Forde.