By Michelle Sutherland
The union is ready to defend against “foolishness” and any type of “victimization” as it relates to public officer Daniel Chi, PSU President Dean Flowers told The Reporter Thursday when asked about the possibility of Chi's dismissal from the public service.
Chi, who has worked in the public service for about a decade, is reportedly being referred to the Public Service Commission (“the Commission”) for dismissal following an alleged spat with Prime Minister John Briceño.
While Flowers told our newsroom that he has not officially received any letter from the commission regarding Chi, he said that the best information that he received from within the ministry is that “that foolishness” was not entertained and was not sent to the Commission. In fact, according to Flowers, he has been informed that the recommendation from the CEO of the Ministry of Sustainable Development Kenrick Williams “will not see the light of day.” If, however, it does, Flowers said that the union would be surprised that the Commission would entertain such a pointless matter.
Furthermore, Flowers said that the union is confident that should the matter reach that stage, they are certain that based on the facts collected so far, Chi will be vindicated and that the commission chaired by Charles Gibson will throw out the matter.
“I wish to add for the record that if it was that the commission was to entertain such a foolish recommendation by the ministry, it could have serious financial consequences for the government and people of Belize because that could very well put Mr. Chi on good footing for a very hefty lawsuit against the government for unfair dismissal,” Flowers underscored. “I can also tell you that the PSU will fully support Mr. Chi in any endeavor to vindicate himself or seek compensation from this administration for what we view as a mere political interference and victimization of an officer who was simply doing his job and who at no point in time, based on the evidence provided to us disrespected, the Prime Minister or the importer in question,” reiterated Flowers.
Last week, CEO Williams told Love News that Chi was likely being recommended for dismissal on the grounds of insubordination. “I think the recommendation is for him to be dismissed if I’m not mistaken,” Williams said. “But, again, it is for the Commission to look at the case and determine.”
Flowers referred to the accusation against Chi as a minor misconduct that falls under section 82(1)(f) of the Public Service Regulations. That portion, according to Flowers, addresses insubordination, rudeness, or the use of improper language.
“If you go to regulation 83, it will guide you on what are the procedures for dealing with minor misconduct and it says clearly there that an oral warning should be issued. So how did we get to this stage I don't know,” Flowers said. “Some of these people need to be trained and retrained before they are appointed CEO because they make a mockery of the system and the public system regulations, ended Flowers.”
During a conversation that the media had this week with the Minister of Public Service Henry Charles Usher, he claimed that he had not seen any submission for Chi's dismissal to the Public Service Commission. He further claimed that those documents are not handled by his ministry and while he is aware that the Commission is scheduled to meet this Friday he is not aware if Chi's “supposed termination” is on the agenda.
“What I can say is that disciplinary procedures are in the Public Service Regulations. There is a procedure that has to be followed and as far as I know, that procedure has been followed by the Ministry of Sustainable Development in terms of what has been done with the leave and then the suspension and so on. And then the application is made to the Public Service Commission for further discipline, but I don’t know what has been requested,” indicated Usher.
Usher refused to go into any other details regarding Chi's case and cited that it is still a “live matter.” Neither would he offer his comment as the Minister of Public Service on whether he believed that the situation should have reached this far. He noted that there are two different types of infractions in the public service, one for minor infractions and another for major infractions.
He ended by saying that he will leave the matter up to the Commission to decide whether the infraction committed by Chi for refusing to take orders from Prime Minister John Briceño warrants dismissal.
Whether the submission did reach the Commission, we are told that based on the facts provided by the CEO, they will write to Chi asking him to provide reasons why his termination should not be considered, at which point the PSU will get involved.
Section 83 of the Public Service Regulations
As Flowers pointed out, even if Chi is guilty of insubordination, which is classified under rule 82 as “minor” misconduct, the regulations set out the process as follows:
“A Chief Executive Officer or head of department shall issue an oral warning to a public officer for minor misconduct under regulation 82(1) (2).
“ If, after the oral warning a public officer’s conduct does not improve, the Chief Executive Officer or head of department shall warn the public officer in writing and the public officer shall, in writing, acknowledge receipt of such warning. .... (4) Subject to subregulations (1) and (2), where a public officer fails to improve his conduct, the Chief Executive Officer may recommend disciplinary procedures.”