Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Grindley wants $40m - Ex-Petrojam boss claims wrongful dismissal, reputational damage

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2019 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Floyd Grindley, former general manager of Petrojam.
Floyd Grindley's Letter
Yolande Ramharrack

The discarded general manager of Petrojam, Floyd Grindley, is seeking $40 million from the state-owned oil refinery on the grounds of wrongful dismissal and reputational damage, The Sunday Gleaner has learnt.

Sources say that Grindley’s letter to the Paul Hoo-chaired Petrojam board was dispatched within the last three months and comes in the wake of a golden handshake of $15.2 million to Yolande Ramharrack, the unqualified human resource manager who negotiated a settlement even while facing a raft of disciplinary charges ranging from mismanagement to nepotism.

Grindley, too, was deemed to be unqualified for the position of general manager as the advertised position required a postgraduate degree holder, but he had a first degree. There was also no job description for Grindley’s position as was revealed in findings of an investigation led by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis.

The Sunday Gleaner was informed three weeks ago that Grindley, through his lawyers, had sued Petrojam for wrongful dismissal and reputational damage and was seeking damages of $40 million. However, a Sunday Gleaner query of court records yielded no evidence of a suit being filed.

But this newspaper’s impeccable sources have confirmed that the former general manager is now seeking compensation through direct engagement with the current Petrojam board.

Grindley’s separation package of July 2018 had a gross settlement of $7.9 million, with a net payout of $5.23 million. His compensation package, therefore, was just over a third of that paid to Ramharrack, whom he hired under instruction from Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, the chairman of Petrojam who was axed in 2018. Bahado-Singh, who was accused of political interference and charged the State for trips not taken, is a close friend and college mate of former Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley, who was forced to resign as the Government came under fire for Petrojam’s apparent culture of excess, cronyism, and mismanagement.

Grindley, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, wrote the Petrojam board, advising of his willingness to terminate his contract. The board informed him in that letter that there was mutual agreement for the termination, pursuant to Section 15.1.a with effect from July 10. The termination letter signed by Hoo stated, “We ask that the terms of this agreement be kept strictly confidential and that all company property assigned to you … and any other office equipment be returned forthwith … .”

Since Grindley’s termination, the Jamaican Government has unilaterally reclaimed the 49 per cent stake that the Nicolás Maduro Venezuelan regime had in Petrojam, mainly because Caracas has failed to put up money for a multibillion-dollar overhaul of the obsolete refinery.

The Holness administration argued that it had no choice but to acquire the shares because Venezuela had become increasingly isolated globally and has been rattled by social and economic upheaval, including a trillion per cent inflation rate.

Sanctions imposed by the United States have made it difficult for countries doing business with the Venezuelan government for fear of punitive action by Washington. The United States does not recognise Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, favouring, instead, Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old congressman.

Grindley was one of several Petrojam officials to have been blown away by a cyclone of corruption, cronyism, political interference, and deception at several arms of the then Wheatley-led Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, including National Energy Solutions Limited; the Universal Service Fund; and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, parent of Petrojam.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness would later absorb control of the energy portfolio, and it was under his leadership that the non-disclosure agreement was signed with Ramharrack.

Monroe Ellis found that “Petrojam’s recruitment and selection processes were not always consistent with good practices, its own employment and recruitment policies, and related circulars issued by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service”. Her report revealed that company records showed that Petrojam recruited 76 employees between January 2015 and May 2018, and from a sample of 25 assessed, inconsistencies were identified in the selection process.

“For example, we found no evidence that Petrojam advertised the vacancy for 13 positions, including sensitive positions such as the general manager and manager, refinery and optimisation,” said the report. “This was in breach of sections 4 and 5 of the recruitment policy, which requires job vacancies to be advertised internally and externally,” the report said.

Petrojam did not provide a job description for the position of general manager (Grindley’s position), which should outline the requirements, including the levels of qualification, for the position.

“Notwithstanding, we expected Petrojam to require the incumbent to possess at least a postgraduate degree or equivalent professional certification. In addition, the position of manager, human resource development and administration, based on the advertisement for the position, required a postgraduate degree. However, the general manager and manager, human resource, both had a first degree in their respective field(s),” the report said.