Thu | Jul 18, 2019

Fisher fights for his job

Published:Tuesday | February 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Gleaner Writer

Lawyers for the Government have dismissed an assertion by acting Director of Elections Orrette Fisher that under the country's electoral arrangements, his office is insulated from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ).

Solicitor General Nicole Foster-Pusey argued yesterday that the Electoral Commission Interim Act makes it clear that the director of elections is to assist the ECJ in carrying out its functions and that the holder of the office can be dismissed for failing to do so.

"The director [of elections] is a servant of the commission," Foster-Pusey insisted as she presented legal arguments in the Supreme Court in the judicial review of the ECJ's decision to terminate Fisher's services.

However, Fisher's attorney, Hugh Wildman disagreed, arguing that the legislation was designed to preserve the independence of the director of elections.

"You can't have him on a one-year contract so you can say, 'I don't like how you conduct the elections, I remove you' or 'I like how you conduct the elections, so I reward you,'" Wildman asserted, while noting that he was not questioning the integrity of the members of the ECJ.

Justice Kirk Anderson, who is presiding over the case, has reserved his decision and indicated that he will treat the case as priority.

The ECJ also agreed to allow Fisher to continue carrying out the functions of director of elections until Anderson delivers his ruling.

Fisher is fighting to keep his job after he was informed by the ECJ last October that his services would have been terminated then. He was first appointed director of elections in November 2008 for a seven-year term.

When his tenure ended in 2015, Fisher was appointed to act as director of elections for one year. In 2016, he was given another one-year contract.

But his attorney argued that the second one-year contract was not necessary, as the legislation makes it clear that the director of elections should be appointed to serve for a seven-year period.

"So you will have a vacancy in 2022. You could put up a sign at the Electoral Office on Duke Street saying no vacancy," Wildman said as he asked Justice Anderson to declare the ECJ's action illegal.

However, the solicitor general insisted that the ECJ "had all right to do what it did" and urged Anderson to refuse Fisher's request.