WHO CAN FIRE GIBBS?
By Nalinee Seelal Wednesday, March 7 2012
The Police Service Commission (PSC) is seeking legal advice from a senior counsel with respect to the contract of Commissioner of Police (CoP) Dwayne Gibbs.
A source told Newsday yesterday that following receipt of advice from the Solicitor General with respect to the lease by Gibbs of an aircraft for use by the police, the commission members were considering all the documents on this matter and will make a determination on receipt of senior counsel advice.
One issue to be considered, the source said, is whether any termination of Gibbs’ contract would be executed by the commission, the Minister of National Security, Brigadier John Sandy, or the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) Gloria Edwards-Joseph.
There have been calls for Gibbs’ dismissal in light of the PSC’s poor rating of his performance and disapproval of his decision to lease an aircraft for just under $1 million without ministry authorisation or even knowledge.
But the PSC has to determine if it has the authority to dismiss Gibbs, if necessary, since the commission did not negotiate his contract with him.
Former PSC chairman Nizam Mohammed had said in 2010 that the commission did not handle the salary negotiations for Gibbs and Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski, who are both Canadians.
“The Executive is looking after the negotiations, and we will come in at a later stage to issue the appointment letter to Mr Gibbs, if all goes well,” Mohammed had told Newsday.
In June 2010, Parliament approved the nomination of Gibbs as CoP, as well as Ewatski and two locals, Stephen Williams and Maurice Piggott, as deputy commissioners. The Opposition PNM abstained during the vote for Gibbs.
After this, the previous PSC, led by Ambassador Christopher Thomas issued Williams and Piggott their letters of appointment before the term of that commission expired.
Attorney Nizam Mohammed, who succeeded Thomas as the PSC chairman, also gave Gibbs and Ewatski their letters of appointment, but his commission did not negotiate the terms of their contracts– this was handled by the Government
On August 11, 2010 Newsday reported that the DPA and the Ministry of Public Administration had drafted a three-year contract for Gibbs, a Canadian, including his salary and compensation package, after Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Sandy and the DPA negotiated the terms with him. They also negotiated the contract with Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski, who is also Canadian.
Sources revealed then that Gibbs and Ewatski had agreed to be paid in Canadian dollars, and Gibbs’ contract had a special clause which stated that if he failed to perform, he would be fired with immediate effect.
On August 17, 2010, the Attorney General announced negotiations with Gibbs and Ewatski were completed.
“Negotiations were satisfactorily concluded. The procedure is that Cabinet will have to approve the remuneration packages,” the Attorney General disclosed then.
Cabinet did approve the remuneration packages but it is believed that the contracts for Gibbs and Ewatski were signed by the DPA.
It is against this background that the current PSC, led by Professor Ramesh Deosaran, has to seek legal advice on the procedure for the termination of Gibbs’ contract.
Deosaran and the commission members also have to study a batch of documents submitted along with the Solicitor General’s report as it investigates the process by which Gibbs leased a Zenith Air Scout Surveillance Aircraft at an estimated cost of $902,777.
The Solicitor General has found that Gibbs breached several legal statutes including the Central Tenders Board Act. Gibbs, in his response to the Solicitor General, says he acted in accordance with the Constitution which states that as CoP he has full responsibility for the Police Service, including financial matters. The commission members were due to meet tomorrow on the issue but require more time to review the evidence, a PSC source said yesterday.
“We have been giving due seriousness to this report as well as several other related documents that come under the commissioner’s constitutional mandate, and we shall be meeting in a few days to give this matter the appropriate urgent attention.”
The source added that during the meeting the commissioners will decide on the way forward for Gibbs whose fate hangs in the balance. According to the source “we are striving to respond accordingly.”
Newsday understands Deosaran is expected to spend some hours today at the commission’s office in preparation for the meeting with the other commissioners.
The other members of the PSC are Addison Khan, Kenneth Parker, Martin George and Jacqueline Cheeseman.
Additionally the PSC source told Newsday yesterday that based on the legal opinion of the Solicitor General, the Police Service, on a matter of principle, should cease using the aircraft it leased to carry out surveillance as part of anti-crime measures.
The PSC may give instructions to the Police Service to ground the aircraft.
Gibbs held his weekly executive meeting with his assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners yesterday and, according to sources, he did not discuss the Solicitor General’s report. Sources said Gibbs gave no indication that he was worried about any move to have him dismissed, suspended or disciplined for leasing the aircraft. The aircraft lease is also being reviewed by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) which has requested a copy of the Solicitor General’s report.
“We consider the advice given by the Solicitor General very relevant to what we are doing,” PCA director Gillian Lucky said at a press conference yesterday. She said the authority was in the process of collecting “evidence” to determine if an arguable prima facie case can be brought against the top cop.
“We would then determine if a prima facie case, criminal offence or corruption can be brought against the commissioner and to determine if the case even warrants further investigation,” Lucky said. She indicated if any incriminating evidence is found it would be taken to Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard.
As a result of the number of enquires into the matter, Lucky yesterday sought to clarify that there was no question of three parallel investigations - by the PCA, PSC and the Solicitor General - being conducted.
“The PSC has the sole responsibility to make an assessment and determination if any action is to be taken. It is not for parallel investigations to be taken. The PCA will gather evidence and then determine if there was any wrongdoing. Following this, then it would be determined if any action would be taken such as sending the evidence to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution or the PSC,” Lucky explained.
Lucky also disclosed that reports from Gibbs or Ewatski have been requested.
Dirk Barnes, managing director of TT Air Support, the company from which the police leased the aircraft for a period of 12 weeks yesterday said he had no comment to make in the findings of the Solicitor General’s report. Asked by Newsday if he had read the findings of the report Barnes confirmed he had but again offered no comment on the matter.