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Tribunal member says she did not find Otto Sam guilty

Tribunal member says she did not find Otto Sam guilty


The verdict of “guilty”, brought by the tribunal which was appointed to enquire into the allegation of misconduct on the part of former headteacher Otto Sam was not a unanimous one.{{more}}

One member of the tribunal, Cecily Saunders, said she did not find Sam guilty as charged.

Saunders, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, said while the two other members of the tribunal found Sam guilty of misconduct, she was the dissenting voice.

The former director of audit said she decided to let her position be known, because her name was published in SEARCHLIGHT on May 17, as one of the members of the tribunal.

The retired civil servant said had her name not been mentioned, she would not have found it necessary to speak publicly on the matter. However, having been mentioned, she needed to “clear her name”.

Saunders retired in 2004 as director of audit, after having served 36 years in the civil service. During that time, she worked in several government departments, including acting as chief personnel officer, on more than one occasion.

The former director of audit told SEARCHLIGHT that based on her vast experience, she is “well aware of the rules and regulations of the public service” and thus could not find Sam guilty.

Sam, a former headteacher of the South Rivers Methodist School was fired by the Public Service Commission on May 15, after he was found guilty of acting contrary to Section 3.27 of the Civil Service Orders, by the majority of the members of the tribunal looking into the matter.

Section 3.27 of the Civil Service Orders states that “An officer will be liable to disciplinary action for any misconduct including general misconduct to the prejudice of discipline or the proper administration of Government business and contravention of specific rules and regulations.”

The charge brought against Sam read: “That you, contrary to law and in contravention of the duty to loyalty owed by you as a public servant, to the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, publicly criticized the National Emergency Management Organization, the Government’s central agency for coordinating disaster management in the State, in a manner likely to bring the Public Service into disrepute and prejudicial to the efficient conduct of the Service, when you said in a letter published in ‘The News’ on Friday July 20th 2012 and the ‘Searchlight’ on Tuesday 24th July 2012:

‘… For a National institution with such an important mandate (Disaster Management) my observation at NEMO makes me laugh.’

‘…there appears to be no real plans to build the organization capacity in Disaster Management/Disaster Risk Reduction /DDR, except for attending a few in-house sessions.’

‘A top management officer makes NEMO an interesting creature. The officer is discourteous to particular staff members and clients. In early June NEMO had a major storm as they lashed out loudly/having a brawl – a real shouting match with staff members in the office even when overseas volunteers in the building. At NEMO one worker who management says curses expletives on clients and lapses with her work is not given a reprimand, however, another who does her work well, is disciplined but is late fifteen minutes for lunch and gets a warning letter. NEMO is very special, workers are insulted and called names by the senior management. Names like “ground zero”.’

‘Workers are targeted if they make suggestions or question particular things.’

‘… NEMO is really interesting. I sometimes call it the upside down organization.’

‘What makes my stint even more interesting is, NEMO teaches business houses and government depatments and some schools disaster management or how to prepare for disaster/DRR, including developing disaster plans, yet NEMO has no plans of its own to secure its workers and office if there is an event.’

‘The fact that senior management incites chaos is also another lesson learnt from this interesting organizaiton. It is not uncommon to see lines of management in open verbal confrontation in the presence of nearly most workers.’

‘Sometimes I wonder if NEMO is managing disasters or is itself…!’” [End of charge]

The chairman of the tribunal appointed to enquire into the allegation of misconduct was assistant director of public prosecutions Colin John. The other member was retired Superintendent of Police Aldric Williams.

Sam, who was represented by counsel Jomo Thomas and Shirlan Barnwell, gave testimony before the Tribunal.

Director of NEMO Howie Prince, Deputy Director Michelle Forbes and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey appeared as witnesses.