Tue | May 30, 2023

Bernard reassignment fight stalls again

Published:Wednesday | January 19, 2022 | 12:09 AM
Dean-Roy Bernard
Dean-Roy Bernard

In-limbo education ministry permanent secretary (PS) Dean-Roy Bernard will now have to wait until November 14 for the Full Court to begin its review of the Public Service Commission’s decision to reassign him in 2019 after the matter failed to start Tuesday because of the unavailability of judges.

The judicial review was initially scheduled for Monday before a single judge and was postponed for two more judges to be found to complete the panel that is needed to hear the matter.

However, when the matter was mentioned Tuesday, the court was told that the registrar was unable to find two available judges.

Bernard was transferred from the ministry in February 2019 to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service as director general. Dr Grace McLean, who was the chief education officer in the ministry, was promoted to PS.

However, Bernard successfully contested the move and McLean was relegated to acting PS after the court ruled that the post should not be reassigned until the matter has been settled. He was granted leave for judicial review.

Bernard’s reassignment was done when the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) scandal involving then Education Minister Ruel Reid started to unfold, but he was never told why he was transferred.

The public official was informed by way of letter from the Office of the Services Commission dated March 1, 2019, that his reassignment was being done on the recommendation of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and in keeping with Section 126(3) of the Constitution of Jamaica.

The reassignment was to take effect from February 14, 2019, but the salary and allowances would remain unchanged.

But Bernard responded with a claim against the Services Commission and the attorney general, seeking leave for a judicial review as well as a stay of execution of the reassignment, a declaration of the move as unconstitutional and null, and a mandate to reverse the directive.

Among Bernard’s grounds for the claim were that the prime minister had no authority to recommend reassignment and that the commission had a duty to review the prime minister’s recommendation and that neither the Constitution nor the Staff Orders contemplated the forcible removal of a PS to a lower or other position in the public service.

The aggrieved public servant also contended that the director general is not a position on the establishment of the finance ministry and that the reassignment was done without reason and amounted to a demotion.

Attorney-at-law Marc Williams is representing Bernard, while Keith Bishop and Andrew Graham are lawyers for the Office of the Services Commission.