Lawyer Jomo Thomas says the Ralph Gonsalves government doesn’t have “a chance in hell” of winning its appeal of Justice Esco Henry’s Oct. 20, 2016 judgement ordering Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan to ensure that dismissed career educator Otto Sam, receives full pay from the time he was suspended in 2012, with all benefits and full pension.
The judge ruled that the decision of the Public Service Appeal Board (PSAB) to dismiss Sam — who was transferred from his head teacher post to the National Emergency Management Organisation in 2010 — was: illogical, unreasonable and unlawful; arrived at in an unfair and procedurally improper manner; and disproportionate to the alleged wrong.
Justice Henry further declared that Sam was “unfairly and wrongfully dismissed” by the PSAB — after 33 years of service to the nation.
The government in December appealed the judge’s decision just as the time for appeal was about to run out.
Thomas, who became Speaker of the House of Assembly after taking up the case, had hailed the decision as a victory for workers and had said that citizens should use judicial review more frequently.
On Tuesday, he confirmed to iWitness News that the government has in fact appealed the decision.
“I don’t have any problem with that,” he said, adding that the government, through the Attorney General, is exercising its right to appeal.
“I got to tell you, though, that based on my reading of the decision and based on my understanding of the law, I don’t think they have a chance in hell of overturning the judge’s decision,” Thomas told iWitness News.
Thomas said that the decision to appeal could turn out to be more expensive for taxpayers, noting that the government has to pay lawyers to do the appeal.
“… interest is running from the initial judgement, so if they appeal and lose, which I am pretty confident would happen, it means that they are occurring more legal cost, they will have to pay more interest, and they would also have to pay the cost of this appeal. So I really don’t see the need for the appeal; but that’s not my call,” Thomas told iWitness News.
He said he believes that what happens in these cases highlights “the critical and fundamental importance” for a solicitor general.
“Because I think a solicitor general in the Office of the Attorney General would look more at these cases and make decisions as to whether the appeals are viable or not. At this juncture, I don’t believe that we are being served well in the absence of a solicitor general,” he said.
The decision of the government to appeal comes even as the Court of Appeal on Dec. 12, 2016 ordered the government to pay Sam $64,920 at 5 per cent interest per annum from that date.
The amount represents damages awarded in the case in which Sam had sued the government over his transfer from his substantive post as a head teacher to NEMO, although he had no training in disaster management.
The total sum represented annual duty allowance of $2,400; difference in salary of $24,000; vindicatory award of $30,000; and prescribed cost of $8,520
Master Raulston Glasgow, justifying his to offer of a vindicatory award said:
“In the instant situation, a highly qualified educator was arbitrarily removed from his office and unceremoniously deposited in another office for which he was not qualified or equipped. He was left for some time to beseech his superiors for the tools and responsibilities of office and was later assigned tasks not commensurate with his training, qualifications and experience. He was sent off on 90 days leave for which he did not apply. A fair and substantial sum must be awarded to vindicate the breach of the constitutional rights afforded to him.”
Thomas, whose chambers also represented Sam in that case, told iWitness News that he is confident that the court will come to a similar place after hearing the government’s appeal in the dismissal lawsuit.
“So, you can also be sure that there’s also going to be assessment of damages in the dismissal case as well,” he told iWitness News.