Brac officer steps in as acting fire boss

| 01/02/2019 | 41 Comments
Cayman News Service

Fire Service Divisional Officer Witney Tatum receives the civil service Employee of the Month Award in 2015 from Deputy Governor Franz Manderson

(CNS): Divisional Officer Witney Tatum, from the Cayman Brac Fire Station, has been appointed as the acting chief fire officer, ministry officials confirmed Friday, the day after David Hails departed the job. Government is currently in the process of recruiting an interim fire chief for twelve months to fill the top post after Hails’ contract was not renewed. Controversies continue to plague the fire service, not least the failure of succession planning. Three years after Hails arrived, promising to have a Caymanian in his boots before he left, questions remain about whether or not the next fire chief will be local. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs, which has responsibility for the fire service, released a statement on Friday implying that the cash windfall of almost $50,000 given to Hails on his departure relating to comp and leave time “was made in keeping with established HR policy to reduce the amount of accrued annual leave and comp time carried forward into a new budget year by its personnel”.

The ministry said that last year more than 60 employees in several departments received this type of payout with approval by the deputy governor.

“A total of 51 employees received payment for annual leave while 13 received pay-outs for comp time. This included senior staff, as well as emergency services and any other personnel meeting pre-determined criteria,” the ministry stated. “Chief Hails was one of the individuals who had accumulated a significant amount of leave and comp time.”

With a large number of emergency services personnel regularly working outside normal hours or who are unable to use their full annual leave entitlement due to situations beyond their control, the ministry had made the decision to pay people, the release stated.

“With regards to the Fire Service in particular, the overall staff complement of the department is such that it was impractical for their leave balances to be reduced through time taken,” the ministry stated, adding it was “committed to regularly monitoring its liability for comp time and leave accrual so that it is able to pro-actively take steps to keep these within reasonable limits”.

Hails departed from the fire service on Thursday, before the recruitment of an interim chief was completed and without anyone being named as acting chief. Government officials confirmed Tatum, who is a long serving and popular member of the fire service was named as the acting CFO just before 4pm on Friday.

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Comments (41)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Training and development should be top of your new Chiefs agenda, together with seeking to create an inclusive culture across the Service.

  2. Brac Fireman says:

    It beats putting up guttering.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My son take courage! You have been offered the position as Chief, take it and do your best at all times. Look at other people’s mistakes and use them as a stepping stone. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path. Do as Moses told the children of Israel “ stand still and see the Salvation of the Lord, these Egyptians you see, you will see them no more” . Next week they will find some one else to demoralize and the same ones that are cursing you now will be blessing you soon. I really don’t know you or your connections, but I do know you and I are born Caymanians. Make Cayman Brac proud and I will be praying for you. I am proud to be an East Ender from Grand Cayman. Blessings!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    ‘The Ministry of Home Affairs, which has responsibility for the fire service, released a statement on Friday implying that the cash windfall of almost $50,000 given to Hails on his departure relating to comp and leave time “was made in keeping with established HR policy to reduce the amount of accrued annual leave and comp time carried forward into a new budget year by its personnel”.’

    The ministry release didn’t “imply” this, it clearly stated it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    if he is capable of acting in the “top job” why not give it to him? Promote a Caymanian

  6. Anonymous says:

    Again, the system and its “powers-that-be” are setting someone up to fail. Mr. Tatum is a good fireman but is he up to the administrative task of heading the fire service for any beneficial period?

    Anyway, it seems that he has the support of the public at large; hope he gets the support of the majority of those he will lead and, especially, those above him. The latter is a crucial necessity which is often severely lacking in our Civil Service.

    Congrats Witney, all the best.

  7. Anonymous says:

    539 if you are laughing because you are jealous and immature we hope you grow up.
    This is called hard work!
    You go take on the day and do something good for your neighbor.
    That’s what Brackers do. We work hard and help each other. We wish you well.
    Congratulations to Whitney he is a winner!

  8. Say it like it is says:

    Mr Tatum you clearly have the support of your countrymen, as did the ex Port Director – at first. Hopefully you have learnt from his mistakes and will not repeat them.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Mr Tatum seems to be a person with excellent character.

    Sadly, no matter who is selected permanently or temporarily, at least half of the department will be dissatisfied and undermining. This is likely the same half that should be culled from the service and replaced with those who can turn up to work, stay in shape and follow commands.

  10. Anonymous says:

    just get the best person available locally/internationally for the job. if that is whitney, thats great.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well he should be a good administrator. It’s not like the see a lot of activity in the Brac. LOL.

    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      Do fires burn differently there? Is emergency response structured differently? A person gains experience and maturity in a job and those skills can be applied anywhere, in any country.

      We are lucky to have Witney at the helm. It should be a permanent appointment, assuming he is willing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe Whitney Tatu is too much of a Caymanian for everyone’s liking.This is why Caymanian’s are always held back our own people do it to us.Congratulations Mr.Tatum and I sincerely hope you will be the next Fire Cheif

      • Anonymous says:

        Fact is that there are very few fires or activities for the fire personnel on the Brac to attend to.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ahhhh. 9:36 am . When you say that the Brac does not see alot of activity, that tells us that you are from GC.
      That tells me that you are prejudiced against Brackers and feel that we are less professional and less valued for promotions.
      People on GC do not have more activity nor more training.
      Experience and training go into both the staff on GC and CB.
      Whitney is a fine professional and we highly endorse him as our new Fire Chief.
      We hope to see this new promotion in an upcoming article of CNS and The Compass.

  12. Say it like it is says:

    Hopefully this gentleman will receive the support of his fellow firemen as he is a Caymanian, but it is unfortunate that nationality plays such a big part in how they perform in relation to who is Head of the department.

  13. Booby Point explorer says:

    Absolute class of a man. Best local choice and not emotionally connected to the toxicity, which enables him to make decisions objectively in the best interest of the CFS….and … shall I say it…. he is a bracker from a generation of hard work pays off mentality…. Work ethics second to none… and his very educated and well mannered two sons are testament to his character.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Okay, let me see if I got this straight. Mr. Witney, on what I am presuming was short notice, was the Ministry of Home Affairs choice to be the Acting Chief Fire Officer. Mr. Witney always seem to be going away for more and more training. Mr. Witney is a Caymanian. Mr. Witney has in the past and still continues to travel to Grand Cayman to work on an interim basis.

    So, what is all the nonsense about recruiting a local person to fill the Chief Fire Officer post – he is now there – duh!

    It will really look bad on the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Deputy Governor if such a qualified individual as Mr. Witney is not offered the post permanently. All the garbage about recruitment process is just garbage. Only locals should be considered for the post – and am presuming that there may be one or two others that are interested.

    So, Minister of Home Affairs, make it happen, results not excuses.

    Congratulations Mr. Witney.

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘Only locals considered for the post’……..that about sums it up, god help us

    • Anonymous says:

      5;30. Looks like you need more sleep.

      First Witney and other senior staff have been receiving excellent training for the past 3 years. Which has now equipped him to take on the acting Chief and other senior posts So stop the bickering.

      Secondly the real issue is the political activities that goes on in the fire service spurred on for the past 5 years by Bernie and now Kenneth. This is destroying the Fire Service and has to stop.

      Staff are turning on each other and undermining caymanians. How sad that Bernie Kenneth and Woodie can’t see this. But should we really expect better?

      From the outside I see real progress finally happening at Fire despite the issues raised above. I call on all firemen to work together. Support each other and for politicians and talk show hosts to stay out of the fire service. You are out of your league.

    • Anonymous says:

      Some of or previous caymanian chiefs did not have as much training as he has and was chief for many years, i worked there that’s why I can say this, so what is the problem now, give or caymanians the training to hold these positions, why do we always show the world or lack of support for or people. Caymanians are leaders, let’s us lead.

  15. Junior says:

    There you go ppl, stop bickering now

  16. Anonymous says:

    Proud of u Tatum.

  17. Anonymous says:

    First, let’s see how fast these fancy Owen Roberts airport firetrucks can turn…

  18. Anonymous says:


  19. Anonymous says:

    I love this right here. From what I can see, this was an obvious thing to do. The ministry sees all the undermining and the crab and a bucket mentality with the “ones” we have here in Grand Cayman, so what did they do? Pick a person from the Brac! Bravo thinking and hats off to the ministry on this one! Someone mutual, fair and actually have the interest of the Department at heart! Congrats Sir Tatum. You have my support

  20. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations, Witney. Well deserved, and as far as I’m concerned, should be a permanent appointment, should the Fire Services be so fortunate as to have your agreement.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Congrats Witney! Wish you the best and remember to strive for excellence and hold the interest of staff development as a focus.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know the gentleman but wish him the best. I agree he needs to focus on staff development. It is alarming after half a century of having a Caymanian at the helm that the islands firemen still lags in training and qualifications. Thank goodness we do not have a lot of fires so why isn’t the down time not spent on them doing on line courses linked up with a very good university with overseas quarterly practical training, it must be possible to sort thst out so that our guys are trained up. Come on start thinking outside the box! On a whole the guys are very strong nice guys, but they need to be properly trained up so that next time there will not be this issue.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Congrats Whitney. You can do it !! Put God first and the rest will follow

  23. Anonymous says:

    So what happened to all the assistants and deputies in the middle. There belies the problem

  24. Anonymous says:

    You go Whitney , you can do it , committ your way to God and he will guide the way . Make us proud .

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would a loving god allow peoples homes to catch fire in the first place?

      • Anonymous says:

        Go home and shut up – God didn’t catch a the fire you did

        • Anonymous says:


        • Anonymous says:

          But everything is his divine plan and only happens with his permission

          We get it though
          Absolve him of the bad and praise him for the good
          Nice little system you got set up there

      • Anonymous says:

        You would think such an almighty smart creator would omit cancer and mosquitoes from his design..

      • Anonymous says:

        6 12…..Find yourself a good Pastor that you trust. Ask him about the broken world we live in and about the restoration of the world to come. Good news.
        But now. We congrat Witney because he has worked hard and comes from a fine Brac family that has prayed for him and support each other emotionally.
        Let us continue to pray for each other that we may see God’s caring and provision for Witney and the Cayman Islands.
        We love you Witney and stand behind you in all your successes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hopefully God also gave you a brain not to go out and leave an iron, dryer, candle , curling iron, cigarette etc on in you house as well as making sure your wiring was professionally done. Beware how you disrespect God because a bigger fire might be heading your way. I pray you find your way before it is too late.

  25. Anonymous says:


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