Demoted and dumped - Former court administrator seeks justice after being retired at 43
When Deborah Gardner graduated from the University of the West Indies and started her career in the government service in 1994, she was looking forward to serving her country with distinction for the rest of her working life.
Now the chances of doing so seem very slim as Gardner, who is just 43 years old, was told by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in May that she was being retired from the public service effective June 1.
Gardner was serving as the principal executive officer of Court Management Services (CMS), which is responsible for the administrative running of the courts.
Following an amendment to the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act last year, it was announced in February that there would be the establishment of a Court Administration Division that would replace CMS, which was established in 2010.
Gardner, who was responsible for setting up the CMS, was informed in the letter from the acting chief personnel officer, Jacqueline Mendez, that she was being retired on the grounds of reorganisation in accordance with Section 6 (1A) of the Pensions Act.
She was granted a three-year study leave in 2013, two years with pay and one without, to pursue a law degree. Having completed the degree in two years with first class honours, Gardner indicated to the PSC on September 9 last year that she would be resuming work later that month.
According to Gardner, the letter granting her study leave had stated that if she completed her studies before the time allotted then she should return to work at the earliest possible time.
She said when she returned to work on September 25 last year, she was not allowed to take up duties as the person acting in her post was still there.
Gardner was subsequently told that she was being deployed to the Ministry of Justice.
"When I turned up at the ministry on September 29 last year, to my horror and shock, I was to report in a unit to a person who was junior to me," said Gardner.
"I realised I was being demoted without due process. There was no allegation of misconduct or non-performance issues," added Gardner.
She told our news team that she met with the chief personnel officer, Dr Lois Parkes, on October 1, 2015, and was given a letter stating that the grounds for her deployment was returning earlier than anticipated from study leave.
"I have no problem being deployed elsewhere to work but my problem was that the deployment was inconsistent with Public Service Regulations," charged Gardner, who was a senior manager for the last 11 years.
She argued that the regulations state that any deployment must be to an equivalent position.
"I wrote to the PSC outlining my concerns and received a letter in February saying that the PSC was aware of my concerns and would be in touch with me. I did not hear anything further until on May 24 when I was called to collect a letter, and when I did, to my shock and dismay, I was told in the letter that I was being retired effective June 1 on the grounds of reorganisation."
Gardner, who also has a master's degree from Brandeis University, USA, majoring in Sustainable International Development, also worked at the Cabinet Office for six years before being promoted to head the CMS.
She told The Sunday Gleaner that she has always served with distinction and throughout her career has spearheaded many government projects which have formed policy and guided legislation.
Now Gardner says she has nowhere else to turn but to the courts to seek justice.