Alden won’t ‘endorse’ foreign fire chief

| 03/06/2015 | 50 Comments
Cayman News Service

Officers from the Cayman Islands Fire Service (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier has said that he will not endorse the recruitment of an overseas fire chief when the current recruitment process is over if a Caymanian is not found. Alden McLaughlin said that politicians were not involved in the recruitment of civil servants but after almost 60 years of locals heading up the fire service it would “be a retrograde step of the highest magnitude” for Cayman to hire an overseas boss.

A recent report on CNS revealed that there are no Caymanians currently serving in the service that meet the new criteria, making it extremely unlikely without a change in the requirements that the new post holder will be local.

But answering questions in Finance Committee Monday, the premier, who has responsibility for the Cayman Islands Fire Service, made it clear that he would not approve recruiting a foreign chief.

“I have made my position clear,” McLaughlin said. “Elected officials have no responsibility for public officers but my position is that we have had a Caymanian chief fire officer since 1958 and it would be a retrograde step of the highest magnitude for us to say we have to recruit a chief who is not Caymanian.”

He said he did not know the results or the details of the latest attempt to recruit a new fire chief but he had told the deputy governor and the chief officer that he would “not endorse the appointment of a foreign fire chief”.

Eric Bush, the chief officer, confirmed that the interviews during the most recent attempt to recruit a new fire chief had been completed and three Caymanians had been interviewed. He said that during the process this time around candidates were asked to come up with an action plan to implement the recommendations in the recently published report by UK fire officer, Peter Holland. Bush confirmed that in past candidates for the post had been asked to come up with a five-year strategic plan in what appears to be a rigorous recruitment process.

With fears that the criteria will exclude locals, the problem of succession planning was also discussed in Finance Committee. The premier said that the current situation across the civil service, with significant numbers of people acting in senior posts, was as a direct result of the historical failures in the public sector to succession plan.

“We have had what is an unfortunate practice in the public service of people acting for years in positions,… and that’s the result of a lack of succession planning,” McLaughlin said. He added that Deputy Governor Franz Manderson was keenly aware of the position of the current administration on this and he said the elected government was bringing it to his attention at every opportunity.

Manderson is said to be taking steps and had, himself, spoken about the need to recruit locals into the service during the recent budget debate but noted that the service is currently 70% local. This was a figure that a number of MLAs lamented and Winston Connolly, the George Town backbencher, who is also a counsellor in the employment ministry, said it was way too low.

But McLaughlin said that, given how long the problem had existed and how bad it was now, succession planning would not be an easy thing to fix, as he described the situation as “entirely unsatisfactory”.

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Category: Government Finance, Local News, Politics

Comments (50)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes you might expect that but we are talking about McLaughlin here and before anyone asks I am not a Bush supporter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I apologise for coming late to the blog, but I have to ask, are not the premier’s comments racist and discriminatory?
    Surely the best qualified, regardless of colour, race or creed should be the one selected?
    The most successful organisations in the world embrass diversity and acknowledge all bring something to the table.
    It is a narrow sighted organisation which I would suggest is doomed to failure should the best people suited for the job be not selected?
    I would have expected that our elected leading citizen would not expouse such rhetoric in such a racist and discriminatory way?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Given the news on the Acting Chief Fire Officer, how did that work out then?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Try surviving without the knowledge of “the greedy expats”

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well Alden it looks like you’re getting kicked in the teeth for standing up for your fellow Caymanians. Unfortunately since they’re all anonymouses we won’t know if its our ignorant fellow caymanians or our ignorant greedy expats doing do. Wha mess.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Put it on the back burner until you get a Caymanian!

  7. Anonymous says:

    You’d actually be better off hiring an expat for this position!

  8. CaymansList says:

    The simplest thing to do would be to hire an Expat that is qualified on a two to three year training contract that will require his Training and mentoring the person that will succeed him after the contract term is up. A part of the contract should be that he successfully trains his replacement in order to receive final payment on his contract. This would be a perfect spot for a recently retired Fire Chief from a larger jurisdiction that wouldn’t mine working a few more years.

    • Anonymous says:

      But there is no trainable fireman at the Fire dept. They are all low academic performing school leavers who cannot understand basic concepts like management. How to follow a step by step manual (which is what they have) – yes – but think independently? plan? discipline others? evaluate?. No. And again, no.

  9. Anonymous says:

    What’s being lost in the retoric is that the person who is to be hired is the person who was best at interpreting the report was the consultant who wrote the report. – Fairness should run both ways.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How about just putting a little unbiased thought into the possibility that many of the “older” Caymanians because of the culture and lack of early education they grew up in has limited them in just how far they can go as far as training. The best teachers can teach nothing to a bad student. How about going for putting a really qualified person in a top job AND replacing some of the dead wood, going nowhere guys with some of the newly educated and motivated younger Caymanians who now need a career they can grow into and make a difference in their island home. But take into account that if they are trained by the old school nothing changes but the faces. And you limit them and you.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Good for you Alden.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ah yes, Winston. If only the Civil Service was 100% Caymanian…….. like the Post Office, the Fire Service, Immigration and Customs.

  13. Anonymous says:

    So Alden wants the right nationality not the right person for the job. That is why there is a bloated civil service. Let’s hope there aren’t too many fires.

  14. Anonymous says:

    why get a real doctor our bush doctor has dun good for many years?
    so sad how our government wants second best all the time
    progress is not in the cards
    perhaps a new shopping center can be built at the end of the runway where the cricket field is

  15. Anonymous says:

    After Caymanian leadership since 1958, the Fire Service appears to be an absolute mess?? True? Therefore hire an ex pat who knows what they are doing! Simple as

  16. Anonymous says:

    when was the last time alden said anything that made sense????

  17. Anonymous says:

    Just another great reason why a Caymanian should not be in charge just because he is Caymanian. If your not up to doing the job it should be given to someone who can. Or just keep things the way they’ve always been here. Non functional. Its what the voters are used to. Great if you can still afford it.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So you’d rather have the votes then a functional fire department. Everyone saw that coming. The fact that you would rather keep your job then do your job is no surprise. This is Grand Cayman after all.

  19. Anonymous says:

    So 70% is way too low Winston? I did not know you were such a dufus or a politricksian on the make. Fill the 30% gap with Caymanian teachers, policemen, garbage collectors, agricultural workers, dog trappers and prison officers if you are so horrified at the figure. You are a nice man -stop the crap. And Alden, for God in Heaven’s sake, since you are also so concerned, please put in place a succession plan for garbage collectors, teachers, cops etc etc. I know, it’s nonsense. So stop spouting this ezzardian crowd pleasing idiocy. Those of us who have supported you are not looking for this bull manure on your part.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said, 8:39. I would bet that the percentage of Caymanians in that big old Government Administrative Building, which is what people think is the “real civil service” (as opposed to teachers, cops and garbage crews for example) is about 90%.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Why isn’t he addressing all the Jamaicans they are approving, bet no one can protect us from them. Why? They don’t sign the contracts our government prefers to hire expats over their own.

  21. Anonymous says:

    What ii they sent an English fireman, who’s married to a Caymanian and he applies for status? That’s a Caymanian, or as I suspect, this fighting is all about putting a Jamaican status-holder… Caymanian in the position. Next Immigration

    Unless you Mr. Premier and PPM/C4C decide to show the difference by placing the difference between status holder and native Caymanian in recruitment regulations, this will continue.

  22. Anonymous says:

    It is nothing to do with the failure to succession plan in the civil service and Alden knows it but dare not say it. There are-quite simply- not enough bright Caymanians to go around-especially in the school leaving jobs in Post Office, Immigration and Fire, the 100% Caymanian ones. The chiefs of these in the old days just needed to stay in their jobs for 30 years until they floated to the top and became top man. Seniority-just being there – was also the way you got ahead in the rest of the service even if you were useless. But times have changed around the world, though not much in some parts of Cayman. The idea that any of these people at the Fire Dept could come up with a strategic plan is embarrassingly laughable though I suppose Ezzard would believe they are “brilliant” enough to do it.

    The lack of talent available is why we have/have had 35-45 year old Chief Officers, earning $120k with no real experience – they are Caymanian, that is all. The selection tests used a year or so ago showed just how dismally some of the senior contenders for these posts performed -it’s an open secret in the civil service and very obvious to those who are in the departments run by these very limited administrators.

    I suppose Alden had to say what he said-the proud defender of Caymanians – but I also imagine he has heard that the firemen are going around the place saying they will strike if a foreigner is “put over them”. Tail wagging the dog.

    • Anonymous says:

      Strike! Not sure we would notice their absence. Thank you Alden for finally opening my eyes to what a total idiot you are. I, want a fire chief that can run a modern service and care not a jot for their nationality.

      • Anonymous says:

        You had better start caring about your nationality, you total idiot. But only If you care to continue t live in a place you can call home. By the looks of the thumbs here the expat mob is definitely out to get us. Press on Alden.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let them strike. The British Army have the equipment, training and experience from previous national strikes in the UK to man these positions until permanent replacements are found.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Succession planing is a big joke in the government service. It is business as usual, no expat is going to train locals to take over from them. Good example is PWD. Where is the succession planning in that department? How many years does it take for the ministries to know who is retiring or contract is expiring? Matter of convenience to keep them employed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Many employees do not want to be in management and are happy to have an expat as boss to take the brunt of whatever is going on and the Caymanian or other expat employee can leave on time at end of day and not work weekends. Not all Caymanians….must commend one such Caymanian in LIME (yes, LIME…congrats to him and not LIME)… he is a star and sure there are some others like him that have work ethics. Each person is different, but not everyone wants to manage, no matter how qualified.

    • Anonymous says:

      “no expat is going to train locals to take over from them”

      Apparently the last Caymanian fire chief didn’t bother either.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I agree that succession planning in the civil service is “entirely unsatisfactory” but surely the blame for this can be fairly and squarely attributed to senior management in the service which is comprised almost entirely of Caymanians. Appointing another Caymanian will just perpetuate this problem.

  25. Just Wacthin says:

    His endorsement is not necessary or relevant. But because he could not keep is clapper closed and say it is not within his responsibility, he has now created two scenarios that will play out, neither of which will be in the best interest of Cayman:
    1. to appease him and his gallery, the Chief Officer (who has the sole responsibility) will back down and appoint someone who is Caymanian but doesn’t have the necessary breadth of skills to fill the position; or
    2. the Chief Officer will press on and appoint the person best suited for the job but because he isn’t a Caymanian, he will be doomed to fail at the hands of the ‘play politicians’ in the Fire Service.
    Much of the problems within the Fire Service has had to do with the fact that the staff play too much politics and our politicians have always ‘played it’ with them.
    What he should have insisted on was the rapid development of a training and development regime that would produce Caymanian candidates to fill the post.
    But no; he needs to be able to run his mouth in Sea Inn Bar tonight and say what he ‘told em today’.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I have made my position clear,” McLaughlin said. “Elected officials have no responsibility for public officers but….Hey! when has that ever stopped us.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Why is it not important to have a competent person in charge? I assume ministry of home affairs have exhausted all possible options when it comes to hiring a Caymanian for this post. What is wrong with hiring an expat and have the most qualified Caymanian as understudy to take over when they are ready?

    Or we can continue to have inept leadership in important roles and complain about not getting value for money. Chief officer Bush would be a hero should he proceed with this… God knows he has a number of dept in his domain in need of fresh capable leaders… CSD is the worst kept secret of a dysfunctional dept in need of leadership.

    Alas politicians only care about votes… So we might as well get used to musical chairs of acting assignments or wait for the incompetent to retire.. Oh wait they are extending that by five years too. Never mind…

    • Sharkey says:

      Why didn’t he say that what he would endorse , is a program that would be further education for the caymanian fire fighters . All political !

    • Anon says:

      What is wrong is that once you get an expat in here he or she digs in and never wants to leave (despite all the irritating carping about Cayman); and I have yet to see any training of any real consequence. The Premier is right. If for nearly 60 years the Fire Service has successfully functioned under Caymanian leadership, it can continue to do so.

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