Carter’s pay-off remains secret

| 10/06/2019 | 28 Comments
Cayman News Service

Roydell Carter

(CNS): How much the public purse coughed up to pay off the former director of the Department of Environmental Health, Roydell Carter, will remain a secret, as the Office of the Ombudsman has upheld a decision by government to refuse a freedom of information request made last September. Despite finding that government should not be using non-disclosure contracts to avoid its responsibility to be transparent about public cash, Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston did not force the revelation, as she said revealing how much Carter received would leave government open to legal action.

“The disclosure of the requested information would constitute an actionable breach of confidence,” Hermiston said in her decision published last week, more than eight months after the request, but added that confidentiality clauses must be used in good faith.

“There is a risk that public authorities may be tempted to use contractual agreements containing confidentiality clauses in order to remove controversial or embarrassing information from public scrutiny. The marking of a document as ‘confidential’ by a public authority, or the addition of a confidentiality clause in a contractual agreement, does not place it outside the reach of the FOI Law, or automatically mean that it is exempt from disclosure.”

She argued that the strong public policy interest in openness, transparency and accountability expressed in the FOI law requires a review of whether the expression of confidentiality is appropriate and in good faith.

“Public authorities should carefully consider whether confidentiality is necessary and appropriate before agreeing to sign an agreement containing a confidentiality clause, and should not use such clauses unless absolutely necessary, such as may be the case in the course of litigation,” the ombudsman added.

The Office of the Auditor General has also warned on numerous occasions that when using public money to pay off civil servants, the people have a right to know that it was used appropriately and the justification for what is often more than six figures.

However, the government continues to use confidentiality clauses to hide the details of such pay-offs.

The entire situation surrounding Carter’s departure from the job and then his retirement has been shrouded in mystery. Carter failed to appear for work from November 2017, but several months later the government had refused to answer questions about his status.

They then denied that he had been placed on official required leave but also declined to give any explanation for his continued absence. They nevertheless replaced him with two acting bosses.

Then around ten months after he had last shown up for work, the government confirmed Carter had retired. There was no explanation over why he had not been at work for so long or why he had been retired early or what he was paid.

The DEH has been plagued with numerous problems for years, issues surrounding dubious overtime payments which have still not been explained. Meanwhile, problems with equipment and garbage collection continue, even as Richard Simms who had acted in the job for almost a year, was confirmed as director last week.

In her FOI ruling, Hermiston outlines the ministry’s claim that “the dispute between the government and Mr Carter was conducted in private” and “contains information that is private and highly personal” to Carter.

Hermiston agreed with the applicant that there was a legitimate public interest in the expenditure of public funds and that the matter was of ongoing interest to the public. But while she noted that a public authority should not be allowed to subvert the FOI law by inserting non-disclosure or confidentiality clauses, in this case the agreement prevented potential litigation that could have involved the assertion of blame by one party against the other.

“In those circumstances, it is permissible public policy to end the dispute and impose a condition of confidentiality as part of the finality of the compromise,” she added.

See the decision in the CNS Library

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Category: Government Administration, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    my next vehicle will be all electric…you cant win against govt and greedy merchants colluding to take bogger and bigger chunks of our salary and happiness….it will never change😕 yet fellow xaymanians keep viting the same people back in office….definition of madness…..

  2. As I C It says:

    This situation reflects nothing but gross disrespect for the public on the part of the Deputy Governor, as head of the civil service, and the Premier as head of the political directorate. They feel no accountability whatsoever for throwing so much of the public’s taxes at these situations that they’re ashamed to say how much they threw.
    Clearly the Government side had serious shortcomings in this matter and the DG/Premier simply didn’t want the public to know how much they doled out to make Carter go away quietly without exposing those shortcomings. Trust me, if they had settled within the normal provisions of the law, they would have been proud to say so!
    Thanks for posting the link top the story “Info boss warns PA’s not to hide behind confidentiality clauses” from 4 years ago. It was disappointing to see that the Ombudswoman didn’t not even refer to it however. She had the chance to say that her office had warned about this practice and draw the line on upholding such confidentiality provisions in settlements in the future. Guess her job is more important.
    And the warning had no impact on either the DG or Premier as the both know that the only one who can call them out, THEIR Governor, will not open his mouth. I guess this is how things work in our ‘World Class Civil Service’. No wonder Choudhury saw that as Franz blowing a pile of hot air.
    A sad situation with only one cure – CHANGE.

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  3. Ron Ebanks says:

    7:58am just to make you feel better about high gas prices , I am paying about CI$2.00 per gallon for gas .

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  4. anonymous says:

    When Carter was paying overtime, the garbage was being picked up although the overtime was unauthorized and possibly illegal. But even after the Government authorized more money in the budget, hired outside vendors to assist, more businesses and house hold residences have hired private garbage collectors, there is still delays with the DEH collection. Seems like the wrong man took the fall to me.

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  5. Ron Ebanks says:

    Why aren’t these Politicians held by a higher standard by everyone ? They can do this and that and hide it behind the smallest rock and everyone is sitting and letting them do it, Not good people !!! I think it is time you say enough is enough , and make them know that there are only certain things that need to kept secret, but after giving away the money so carelessly is not one that should be hidden from the rightfully owners/ the people.

    If you young people don’t wake up it is you that will suffer from the consequences of .

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    • Anonymous says:

      Is it the politicians or the high level Civil Servants who are to blame? Politicians do not run the Civil Service, at least in theory anyway,

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Ministry health fiasco under CO Ahearn again. Can someone please explain why she hasn’t been removed from office yet?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because she’s no worse than the others. Fire her and you’d have another golden handshake “agreement prevented potential litigation that could have involved the assertion of blame by one party against the other”.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I disagree. How many other times do we hear a chief officers names being mentioned in relation to government scandal? I don’t even know the names of other chief officers. What I do know is that if there is breaking news of some new scandal I would put money on Mrs Ahearn’s name coming up.

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    • Pete says:

      I think we all figured out that carter is the scapegoat

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    • World class private sector employee says:

      8.26am A year on paid leave, a six figure golden handshake, a golden pension and everything kept under wraps, only applies to Caymanians that’s why.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    If Mr Carter did receive a large payout and Government made him sign a confidentiality agreement surely this means Government did something wrong. If he had just been bad at his job then a straight forward termination of employment would have been the right thing to do. Instead we are looking at another Health Ministry cover up. If you want to avoid future occurrences of government making large pay outs to cover up their incompetence then action needs to be taken at a higher level. Get rid of the Chief Officer, there is probably enough justification for this without having to hand out hush money.

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  8. Outraged says:

    4.04pm It benefits the public to know how much of their money is being wasted to reward incompetent civil servants placed on indefinite paid leave then given a massive bonus to get rid of them as they could not do their job. This has happened on numerous occasions and if the public were given the facts this nonsense would have to stop. No doubt he will still receive his over generous inflation proof government pension to add public insult to injury. Does this ever happen to non Caymanians?.

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    • Anonymous says:

      To be fair to Mr, Carter the facts relating to his pay off have not been made public. One thing for sure if that if he had been totally at fault government would not have paid him off. Something must have been going on that showed the Ministry was in the wrong to some degree. For all we know Mr. Carter may have been prevented from doing his job properly by Ministry incompetence.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Or more likely the overtime was authorized by someone at some point and after months of blame game this was the only logical recourse.

        “agreement prevented potential litigation that could have involved the assertion of blame by one party against the other”

      • Double Dutch says:

        9.03am So how do you explain the “retirement” of the lady who was Head of Immigration, was she wronged by Government?.
        I struggle to understand the reverse logic of some locals who when things go badly wrong blame anybody but the Caymanian who is paid to take responsibility for his errors.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Leave this man alone, nah!

    Unna too fast…

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I really like our Ombudsman. she has been very fair.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Not knowing anything about the case but your comments are rude Dallas a run. You definitely wouldn’t suit the job. At least what I know of the man is that he is well cultured only thing he is a C AYMANIAN.

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  12. Dollas ah run says:

    Yes he standing exactly where he needs to be in this picture? just a few inches more in front and a little higher up! Thank you for the mess you left DEH in Costing us millions and for all the garbage you left around. Seeeya but i would like to beeeya $$$$ for the reward you have received.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    the way it should! what does it benefit the public to know? it won’t change anything it’s not the first payout and certainly won’t be the last

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    • Anonymous says:

      And private it should be.

      Equally it is an individual’s right to privacy AS it is public funds. At least in this case, an individual’s privacy won.

      A civil servant is also a human being.

      The way that some of you speak of these persons you would think that they were all scoundrels. They too may have children that read your vile comments.

      Think before you type, please.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t be ridiculous, Civil Servants are not human beings.

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      • Anon says:

        12.40am So matter how many mistakes you make, no matter if you only show up for work once a week, no matter what you do, if you are a human being and a civil servant you can do no wrong and the taxpayer has to put up with it.
        Lots of criminals have children, and all are human beings but you would not be concerned about criticizing them online with vile comments as unlike civil servants they are not protected.

    • Anonymous says:

      you guys see the price of gas lately??? sneaking up near $5 bucks a gal…greedy merchants on this island…😉

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