Turtle Centre staff challenge COO recruitment

| 10/03/2021 | 57 Comments
Cayman News Service
Cayman Turtle Centre COO Peggy Hamilton appears before PAC, 1 Dec 2020

(CNS): Almost two thirds of the staff at the Cayman Turtle Centre are angry over what they say is the failure of the senior management team and the board to deal with succession planning. More than 60 members of staff have petitioned the premier alleging breaches of the immigration law with the re-appointment of a top official. Staff said that Peggy Hamilton, the current Canadian chief operation officer, was re-employed by the board without even interviewing at least one qualified local applicant for the job. Hamilton recently came under scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee for her part in the salary fiasco at the turtle farm, which resulted in senior staff getting an extra pay hike in error that the CEO ensured they all kept until it was exposed by PAC.

A spokesperson for the disgruntled staff contacted CNS this week following news that the PAC has also raised concerns about the CEO and referred his behaviour to both the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Commission for Standards in Public Life over the salary issues.

This latest allegation has been brewing for several weeks now, but CNS learned recently that the staff had tried to deal with their concerns about the facility’s management internally. However, with the workers and the executive still at odds, a member of the team involved in the petition told CNS on Tuesday that a decision had been made to raise their concerns publicly.

A letter from the majority of workers expressing their lack of confidence in CEO Tim Adam as well as the COO was sent to Premier Alden McLaughlin; Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell; WORC Director Jeremy Scott; the chief officer in the Portfolio of the Civil Service, Gloria Mcfield-Nixon; the constituency MP, Bernie Bush; and Chris Saunders MP.

Outlining their concerns, the staff said that a qualified Caymanian applied for the COO position in January but was never interviewed. Because the turtle farm is a statutory authority, overseas staff are required to have permits, and the spokesperson claimed that the current post holder’s work permit renewal was submitted last month and cleared in a very short period, raising suspicions that the process was not properly followed.

Staff say their concerns are not being taken seriously and that the management team is acting unlawfully and government is turning a blind eye. In addition to the situation surrounding the succession planning, staff say the relationship between management and staff continues to deteriorate, with allegations of mistreatment and increasingly poor working conditions for those lower down the salary scale.

During the last PAC hearings in November, Hamilton’s role in the salary mess-up was raised but it was never clear how it had happened and she avoided taking full responsibility for the mistake.

But the CTC is no stranger to controversy. Since the old farm was closed and the new costly facility was opened, it has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, from thefts and corruption to poor husbandry, leaving the beleaguered facility falling well short of original expectations and a target of animal rights activists.

In addition to what many say is the ongoing scandal of the significant subsidy the CTC requires to operate, the police and the ACC have been conducting two long-running investigation into internal corruption and what is understood to be procurement issues, as well as a case of theft. Both of these delayed the release of the facility’s accounts and the public scrutiny into how the farm was being managed.

It took 15 years for the farm to pay off the debt it incurred revamping the facility, but it still needs more than CI$4 million each year in public subsidy to operate, as the tourism attraction and retail combined have never generated enough revenue to cover the cost of the farming and conservation projects.

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Category: Government Administration, Jobs, Local News, Politics

Comments (57)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    To develop into one of the greats of leadership and to become a better person. It’s imperative to practice humility.

    According to Unbridling Your Brilliance, at the heart of humility is a desire to serve and a dedication to helping others become great. Never confuse humility with weakness; as a matter of fact, it takes great strength of will and character to put the needs of others before your own. To admit your mistakes, to be vulnerable, transparent, and fallible in front of your team.

    Humble leaders exhibit behaviors that lift their team’s spirits, self-esteem, and confidence to achieve anything imaginable.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I hate the turtle farm.
    For God’s sake, them all go.
    There is no need for butchery.
    I absolutely hate it and everything associated with it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Turtle is our national dish. So I gather you hate it here period. So move on.

      • Anonymous says:

        Turtle was your national dish because of the scarcity of other foods. There’s no scarcity of anything now, so there’s no need to continue eating an endangered species.

        • Anonymous says:

          Turtle is*

          You clearly have no authority to say what Caymanian culture is or should be. Move on.

      • Bib Bobo In West Bay says:

        Turtle is one of the cornerstones of our culture. We love our turtle stew. Could not live without it.

        • Anonymous says:

          If turtle is one of the cornerstones of your culture you must have an absolutely amazing culture.

    • Anonymous says:

      Shut down these run way statutory authorities and their private sector boards

      Return them to the world class civil service.

      Can you imagine Offreg Turtle Center Cayman Airways and the other Authorities being Government departments. We would save millions.

      • Anonymous says:

        During COVID all work permits should have been examined.

        I’m a MBA (Married to Caymanian) with a strong American accent and still see under-qualified expats get jobs and locals not even shortlisted.

        Our work permit scheme smells funny for sure?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wasn’t it 10 million subsidy a few years back when Caymanians was operating it? If so, i think that they have made strides in adjusting the operating cost.

    • Bob says:

      The 10 million was to pay off the loans. All loans have now been paid and its is now approx 3 million a year.

  4. Anonymous says:

    To survive much less strive in this work environment you must have good, trained, dependable staff or the business will lose money. Sorry Caymanians but those in the past and present have given Caymanians a bad reputation as workers and now all Caymanians pay for it. It is good to note that this business which hires many Caymanians is failing to the tune of millions of dollars a year and that will never change. Just like Cayman Airways and every other “Caymanian” run enterprise. Hire Caymanian is just another way of saying we only are interested in taking your money but not the service.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The turtle farm spends a ton of our money every day to pump millions of gallons of salt water uphill.

    Each day, this water runs downhill through long tunnels, back to the sea.

    Are there any energy-capture mechanisms in play here? Cities with water supplies that flow downhill use the flow to spin turbines to recapture a decent portion of spent energy/electricty.

  6. Anonymous says:

    On Brac, can someone please challenge Faith Hospital and HSA as to why they hired a work permit holder in the kitchen.

    I found it very hard to believe that a local Brac cook/chef was not hired for the position.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe they needed someone who could cook? Or maybe some one who could learn to cook. That is usually the reason. They also most likely wanted some one who would show up everyday ready to work. This in itself is the main reason Caymanians are past by.

      • Anonymous says:

        Passed by?

      • Anonymous says:

        Often they want people on work permits who are in servitude. Caymanians know their rights, and are now beginning to stand up for them. They also have families to feed here and other responsibilities like children and value the elderly and want them around rather than placing them in a care home like other countries. You cannot compare Caymanians and work permit holders because of this.

        • Anonymous says:

          Agree about the servitude part. But when foreign nationals come here and get status, it is sad to see when they get into decision making positions and bring in their own nationalities —- and in some cases their own family.
          Just saying it must really suck from a locals viewpoint, especially for those who were bore, raised and lived all of their life here.
          I have watched year after year the hiring of foreign nationals at Faith Hospital.

      • Anonymous says:

        Does not take a culinary school certified chef to make a bowl of soup or a low-sodium sandwich or low sugar jello.

        Faith Hospital as far as I know does not serve normal lunch with rice and beans, cassava, fritters, etc, etc.

        Wonder just how long it will be until locals will be the minority employees at Faith Hospital – soon all will look and talk like the one in the southeastern corner of the old wing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    One slight note: “the tourism attraction and retail combined have never generated enough revenue to cover the cost of the farming and conservation projects” – After the rebuild & rebrand. Previously the Farm paid for itself. Yes with the tourism income making up the other losses, so the Farm didn’t need a subsidy like it does now. But the Disney plan failed to work as sold and we now have the $4mil per year budget black hole that is the … whatever they’re calling the Turtle Centre this year.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, the Farm has really never paid for itself. Around the early 1970s it was starting to emerge into a “commercial” side, with the roots of a tourism attraction, as a natural “spin-off” of the original scientific side. But the CITES bans crippled the business. That’s why it was later bought (bailed out) by Cayman Islands Government and it’s been pretty much of a money pit ever since.

      But hey, I know many people who have or have had jobs at the Turtle Farm, so it’s fed many families. At least that can be said for it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agree to disagree. Even after the CITES ban the Farm was paying for itself locally through Tourism. (Major costs already capitalized, tourists paid the running costs.) The CITES did kill any hope of major income from export though. Hence sale to Govt. and reduction in operations (and costs). The cost/income break was when the old facility was damaged/destroyed by a storm and the new Disney version was built across the road but never attracted the larger number of tourists at the higher price as predicted. (In their … defence … they also didn’t build the dock in WB for the cruise tourists to come ‘straight’ to the Farm as an all-day attraction. So the whole plan fell apart before it got started.)

    • Anonymous says:

      So over $300,000 a month, or $10K a day! Great value….

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Coo role was offering a salary of 120 thousand a year. That might be the first reason it loses money!

  9. Anonymous says:

    So the Cayman Islands Government is learning from and following the example of the private sector by not interviewing Caymanian jobseekers. Is this the improvement we have been promised?

  10. Anonymous says:

    But those are the same people some which is trying to Bach in government in this election that is fighting against the government giving couple dollars to the hard working people in tourism who of no fault of theirs not working, but they don’t see all these crooks taking all the big raise for them selves and the poor undermine caymanian left out in the cold, your own caymanian people fight against their own, but all these foreigner can come and take these big jobs, most of these job are not been advertise, still they throw in caymanian face that they are not qualified, blamed immigration&its board members full stop

  11. Anonymous says:

    Same thing at the airport; they claim they cannot find Caymanians yet they do not advertise the jobs, just call an employment agency and get temps who stay for three months and the cycle starts again. And the Portfolio of the Civil Service knows these things but they are like the proverbial monkeys-see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. Let the public pay for the corruption and incompetence.

    • Big Bobo In West Bay says:

      Yes, we all know that Caymanians are better at running airports and turtle farms better than Canadians. We are a brilliant people, especially when it comes to management.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah Big Bobo, but don’t ever look at the new Bermuda airport and see all the Bermudians there trained and running their airport by Canadians.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wonder if their chickens are coming home now? Somehow I doubt it though! The excuse I heard for no CIG action when same and worse was exposed at another SAGC was “we know they’re lying to us but we can’t hold progress back any longer…we must move ahead.” Hmmm!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Mr Miller is the only one thats not afraid to speak out about things that are not right. If it was not for him of lots wrong during will be swept under the carpet. N S vote for Ezzard Miller all the way,he have Cayman at heart

  14. Anonymous says:

    Support Cayman PPM please!!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    The Unity Government said they would make sure Caymanians get employed when they formed the government 4 years ago – they have done nothing for Caymanians.

    Vote smart this election – take them all out!

    • Anonymous says:

      @12:08 my daughter studied abroad and attained a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, returned to Cayman and could not get a job in the field, despite applying for several such “advertised” positions. She is extremely bright and ambitious but had to return to the United States where she got a job, even with their unemployment struggles.

      She is very disheartened and a prime example of our young people, who endure the discipline to educate themselves away from home for four years, yet can’t get a decent job in their own country!

      • Anonymous says:

        So what about the child abroad that did not get into the school because your foreign daughter was accepted instead. Is that ok? Or should the best qualified always get the spot? Just wondering if it goes both ways

        • Anonymous says:

          Rather depends on the laws of the country doesn’t it? Cayman’s laws are clear. We just don’t follow them.

          • Anonymous says:

            To a degree. If you are willing to go overseas, why not accept that people will come here.

            • Anonymous says:

              I go overseas subject to the laws of those countries. Why can we not expect the same of those that come here?

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m a Caymanian with a Bachelors degree also that returned less than 5 years ago.

        I think the stars aligned and I won the job lottery because to this day I don’t know how I got so lucky to find a job AND get an offer in my field.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks Alden!

      • Anonymous says:

        Did she ever think of studying accounting rather than marketing if she really wanted to live here?

  16. Anonymous says:

    This is regularly done in the cayman civil service.

    Government corporations following the leader.

    Nothing to see here, move on.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Close this abomination down. It serves no useful purpose in today’s society other than political pandering to a small select number of voters.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well done! Until we lose our fear and start demanding transparency and the rule of law, nothing will change.

  19. Anonymous says:

    caymanian succession plan in the civil service???
    ..the cycle of incomptence and failure continues.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Imagine the opportunity cost and social good that an extra $5mln a year might do in Cayman: for mental health, drug rehab, vocational training, public resource upkeep/management, and recreational areas; but no, we need to deeply subsidize an endangered species abattoir, for the handfuls of sociopaths wanting to physically partake in that demise. Cayman has literally pissed away $100-200mln in other opportunities over the last couple decades, directly because of this, and understandably, it’s done nothing for our negative image problems.

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