Complaints about MRCU boss under investigation

| 10/08/2020 | 66 Comments
Cayman News Service
MRCU Director Dr Jim McNelly

(CNS): Complaints by staff of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit about the director, Dr Jim McNelly, are under investigation, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour and Acting Chief Officer Nellie Pouchie have confirmed. The complaints were set out in a letter to the ministry in July, signed by what is believed to be a significant number of the staff, and relate to worrying allegations about the director’s failing mosquito control strategies.

The letter, minus the signatures, has been circulated on social media. It outlines the changes that the MRCU director has instigated in the way different types of mosquitoes are controlled as well as the chemicals being used. The staff members imply that the director’s methods have contributed to the widespread rise in black salt marsh mosquitoes as well as the disease-carrying, urban-loving Aedes aegypti to levels never experienced by the current staff.

When asked in Finance Committee last week if there was a connection between the concerns of staff about the director’s decisions and the increase in mosquitoes, Pouchie said she could not confirm the correlation. Not giving too much away about the internal inquiry, she said that the staff members who had raised concerns were being given the opportunity to open up in confidential interviews about the allegations.

“There is an active process underway to understand clearly what is happening,” she said.

In the letter the staff explain that the director has put an end to the MRCU’s pre-hatch swamp treatment to kill the black march larvae before the rains come, and this had led to an increase in this type of mosquito, which can fly significant distances. Staff said the chemicals that the director is choosing to use during aerial flights over the swamp are ineffective and too many employees are being redeployed to monitor, rather than control, the swamp mosquitoes, redirecting teams from the spraying against the Aedes aegypti.

Pointing out their long experience in mosquito control in Cayman and their collective knowledge, they noted that everyone, expert or otherwise, can see the current increase in the mosquito populations. They also raised concerns about the toxicity of pesticides that the director is introducing that are not suitable for Cayman, including Fyfanon, which some staff have now refused to use during the course of the spraying.

It is also possible that the Fyfanon was responsible for killing bees, which had raised concerns last year. As well as the chemicals that have been brought into question by the staff, it is understood that there are also concerns about the height at which the planes are flying, which are increasing the impact on other insects. However, Dr McNelly has denied that the spraying, and specifically the chemicals being used, were linked to any impact on bees.

Although the director has claimed that some of the increase in mosquito populations was due to the COVID-19 lockdown and the ongoing work at the airport, the staff said that the MRCU has actually been aerial spraying more than ever. “What has changed is the way we approach mosquito control,” they said in their letter.

The authors of the letter urged the ministry to assist them in getting the work at MRCU back on track because they were no longer proud to work for the department. They asked the ministry to withhold the names of the signators if the letter was shown to the director because they were worried about the “vindictive bullying behaviour” by Dr McNelly towards staff.

Since shortly after Dr McNelly arrived some two and a half years ago there have been problems at the unit and mosquito numbers have reached much higher levels than the community is used to. The director has cited a variety of reasons, from the weather to the difficulties obtaining the various insecticides and managing the inventory of biochemicals.

During Finance Committee Pouchie said that as the inquiry continues into the situation at the MRCU, complaints from the public have led to a significant increase in aerial spraying and fogging.

The spraying times can be followed on the MRCU Facebook page. However, it is now no longer clear that the chemicals being used are those indicated on the MRCU website.

See the full letter written by staff in the CNS Library

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Category: Health, health and safety, Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (66)

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  1. Michel says:

    Ask Louis the Bugman, he will know what the issue is… if he ain’t fishing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The mosquito situation is unbearable!! it is the worst ever. It points to incompetence by the leadership of the MRC.
    Even during daytime the mozzies are out.
    Our health minister needs to stop preaching and show leadership by taking action.
    Regarding the spraying killing bees, it is absolutely correct! everyday I see dead bees floating in the sea or in the pool.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How could there be so many mosquitoes? coming from the swamp? Do mosquitoes grow in freshwater or very little saltwater, “brackish”? But environmentalists explained all the time that we have to stop development in the swampland. They teach that the swampland is where the sea life grows. I think we need to get some new teachers. You can’t have it both ways. The distance from the shoreline is not thousands of feet into the swamp that is salt. It changes into fresh water which is why mosquitoes grow there. So development can be allowed in those areas. Hurricanes with large amounts of saltwater come from the shoreline into the swamp. Which is why in a short amount of time mosquitoes come back with a vengeance. Filling the swamp will actually solve both problems by bringing the height of land higher and getting rid of mosquitoes. Imagine if we can’t get the chemicals? If malaria gets a foothold? Are we not concerned about climate change?

    • Anonymous says:

      i thought it was just me. Have a TON of mosquitos in my house. I have no idea how they are getting inside. I never open my windows

      but my arms and hands look like i got chicken pox. Finally figured out if you put a powerful enough fan on you at night, it keeps 95% of them off you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Read recent Compass article on saltwater mosquitoes 🦟

  4. John says:

    No chemicals needed. Bring back smoke-pot days. Did the trick then.

    Get’cha backside in the house.

  5. Anonymous says:

    He is probably managing a few locals robustly, making then do their job so they all club together and run to their MLA who believes the nonsense and has an eye on elections. Not the first time this has happened to an expat boss. There is more to this than meets the eye.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just expat bashing doesn’t explain why there more mosquitoes

    • Anonymous says:

      No doubt about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      And that is why we dont have a mosquito problem right now. Typical non-caymanian response to Caymanians doing a good job.

    • Expat expert says:

      He clearly is an expat expert who knows nothing about his job. He is probably being trained by locals on the job. This happens so often every where including the financial sector. So tried of the browbeaten of Caymanians after they been hear for a year just so they can keep their jobs.

    • Anonymous says:

      So the increase in mosquitoes is just our imaginations then ?

      • Anonymous says:

        Increase? 50+ years ago mosquitoes used to kill cows by suffocation, imagine your pansy ass living here in those days, just be grateful for the work MRCU have done over the years snowflake.

        • Anonymous says:

          1:40p – Hey Dingdong! That’s what we call progress. It is the way the world turns, worldwide, silly foofoo.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s just a personal vendetta, mounted by a local who didn’t get the top job, and is now trying to make life unbearable for the man at the top.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Fyfanon is Malathion. The product labelling clearly states that it is highly toxic to bees and should not be applied anywhere that bees are active or if it can drift onto an area where bees are active.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Where I live we don’t have many mosquitos; they usually come out at dusk for about half-hour and then gone. We often enjoy the evenings outdoors. But recently we’ve noticed more mossies and we can’t stay out. Something has changed!!

  8. MRCU Distress Signal says:

    Mosquitos have been out of control for two rainy seasons. Last year the excuse was a change of suppliers and delays in receiving chemicals. This year the runway work and pandemic are being blamed. Irrespective of the excuses, something has clearly gone wrong at MRCU. A walk outside tells us that and a full and fast inquiry is needed. The public needs more than the customary vacuous explanations from the Unit and CIG.

    MRCU has a long history of effective mosquito control. One has to wonder why the tried and tested practices of the past half century have been discarded. Sadly, Cayman has become a petri dish following the departure of Dr Petrie.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I always wondered if he could even walk in Dr. Petrie’s footsteps. Seems we “traded” a real expert to Florida for perhaps someone who is still learning!

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t forget,3:50, these same people at MRCU doing this man down now, gave Bill Petrie a hell of a time when he was Director and for the same reason…to get his job. But it didn’t work so they are trying again.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Waiting to see if August 14 hearing would be pushed back again. The wheels of justice move fast when it comes to expats, but come to a screeching halt if a local high rank individual is being tried..

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Significant number of staff” and their unspecified allegations successfully removed Anwar Choudhury from office.

    • Anonymous says:

      For good reason, which I’m not sure should be shared with people like you nursing conspiracy theory mentalities.

      Do tell us about 5G and Covid…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Social media is a modern day witch hunt.

  13. Anonymous says:

    So… What is the CIG actually doing that is working right now? This topic is just another in the ledger that we cannot be responsible for ourselves.

    Want to give a thumbs down, fine – you are part of the problem and colluding on ignoring the obvious. Cayman does not have the proper officials in key positions. The circus will continue as long as we elect clowns.

  14. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for our ‘world class’ civil service.
    time for more awards franzie…zzzzzzzzzz

  15. Anonymous says:

    the fact we we have mosquitoe’s all day every day tells you everything you need to know.
    next please.
    time for mass lay-offs throughout the forever-failing civil service.

    • Anonymous says:

      You think this sceanario is bad? Go try to register for a job with WORC. In fact, just try to get some of them to help you get started. Don’t hold your breath trying to get anyone to even answer the phone. Total nightmare! And, it’s just lack of good management. Just take control and make sure it works. The buck stops with the managers.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t believe you. That was built by Caymanians for Caymanians. It was rumored to be the final nail in the Compass’s coffin. How could it not work?

  16. Anonymous says:

    The only things I know factually is that the mosquito problem is out of control. I simply want to be able to go outside in the evening to get some exercise. Is that asking too much?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Somebody’s head needs to roll and get the bloody mozzies back in control! It’s seriously out of hand and we can no longer enjoy being outside!

  18. Anonymous says:

    We’re regularly finding handfuls of dead bees that have died en masse. We’ve never seen such a quantity and with such regularity. We have to wear sandals outside because their stingers have become a pedestrian hazard.

  19. Anonymous says:

    There were HR problems there before the current director. Including people stirring trouble looking for promotions & favour that way. I see it is still continuing.

    Folks – truss less than you hear coming out of MRCU. There are several sides to this story. (And no, more cannot be said without slander in the court of public opinion.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Staff whining doesn’t explain the mosquito Increases though does – it : I am not getting bitten to hell by staff memos when I step outside at dusk.

    • Anonymous says:

      Quite correct about the HR problems being of long standing, 1:01 and no one has been more of a complainer than a senior employee who constantly harassed the previous Director, Dr Petrie and is behind the grumbling going on now because…booya….if McNelly is pushed out, this senior employee, a Caymanian, will be appointed at last to the position he has craved for years.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Jim McNelly has done precisely what his handlers told him to do.
    Alden knows all about it and let it happen. Roper knows all about it and let it happen.
    McNelly is merely a messenger.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes but they will throw him to the wolves to cover there own behinds! He may as well hit the airport now as he is going to be the scapegoat.

    • Anonymous says:

      This always happens when someone new comes in to see for themselves long standing operational and HR issues and begins to sort out what has been ignored and allowed to fester for years often decades, since nobody wanted to address the issues. The newcomer is suddenly the problem, and people take it personal and start undermining. We have always done it this way etc etc, they don’t know what are they doing, so we must trump up something to get rid of them.

      • Anonymous says:

        Reminds me of other situations in government. Dare you step on someone’s toes and cut out their gravey train.

  21. NoName says:

    Another day in Paradise ! I find it an extremely poor explanation for the following reasons:

    1) It was possible to maintain a pool even during the lockdown past the first 2 weeks where you had a hard time finding bleach on the island as well as soda ash to maintain alcalinity of the pool to avoid mosquito spawning grounds . I personally did not find it too hard to get both products on island , the testing strip was the trickiest part of to maintain the pool.

    2) Pool cleaning services were not available ??? All pools come with a suction tube , all it takes is 20 minutes per day , some old panties to stuff into the suction to act as a fine filter and you are off to the races. Most pool pumps can be configured to work during whenever you want to do your cleaning!

    3) A pool technician had the kindness to post a full explanation about how to maintain your pools during the lockdown! The full thing read easily and it was a VERY effective solution. Following those instructions made maintenance easy and our little dingy pool kept blue and clean all that time !

    4) The GMO mosquitoes experiment was yielding results but it was only concerning a single species we have 6 species on island the impact was severely limited. What worked in a lab did not work in the wild where there are thousand of external factors coming into play as well. I would not be too surprised if the genetically modified specimens entailed a mutatation leading to a more aggressive reproduction speed and faster cycle (behaviour modifies in the wild, in the lab they do NOT!). Did we modify behaviour of the species in question and create an evolutionary pressure on this specie ?

    5) Bees have all but disappeared on the island, Each time i collected one from our pool i took care to get it out of the water if still alive , these days I haven’t collected one in weeks , so something has happened , i have even seen bees getting attacked by mosquitoes which prompted my questions about evolutionary pressure! Mosquitoes do not normally attack bees , do they ?

    6) Difficulties getting the chemicals, those shall have been cleared in priority as well as the chemical necessary to maintain pools in a stable condition. The lockdown sent us back years into the efforts of controlling the issue. So far we don’t have a malaria problem but that may come to change , if it does we have a much bigger problem than bites!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Deputy Governor should insist that Ms Ahearn oversee this investigation. Not only was she previously responsible for MRCU at the Ministry level, she is also a former Assistant Director at MRCU. She would be perfect to handle this.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Social media is an evil.

  24. Anonymous says:

    The mosquito problem has been out of control in Frank Sound ever since they changed over to the “new strategy”. How about we just go back to what was working in the 1st place. Please? Figure out who’s to blame later.

  25. Say it like it is says:

    As the staff have no confidence in him and the public has lost confidence in the MRCU we need to break the Government “job for life” tradition and replace him.

    • Anonymous says:

      The guy is an expat. Only caymanians have the “job for life” in the government. Expats working for the government are on contracts that must be renewed every few years for them to remain.

    • Anonymous says:

      He was just doing what he was told By the bigger fool and he was hired to be expendable. True Cayman style.

  26. C'Mon Now! says:

    Bring back Ms. Nancy!

    We know she did a good job as there were less mosquitoes when she was acting Director.

    Surely at this point in time we have enough experience among the staff at MRCU that a competent administrator is just as important as being a Mosquito Dr.

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