Early retirement decision overruled on appeal
The Public Service Commission has lost its bid to have the Court of Appeal overturn a high court decision to reinstate a public servant who was sent on early retirement.
The appellate court, in a ruling Friday, indicated that it would only allow, in part, an appeal brought by the commission against the Full Court’s decision, which had cancelled the commission’s move to retire the former head of the state-run Court Management Services (CMS), Deborah Patrick-Gardner.
Patrick-Gardner, a civil servant for more than two decades, was granted three years’ leave, starting in September 2013, to pursue a law degree “to better carry out her functions”. Having completed her studies in two years, she was attempting to resume her duties when she was informed of the decision.
Patrick-Gardner, who at the time was 43, was notified by the commission in May 2016 that she was going to be retired, effective June 1.
Jacqueline Mendez, then acting chief personnel officer, had advised Patrick-Gardner in the letter that she was being retired on the grounds of reorganisation, in accordance with Section 6 (1A) of the Pensions Act.
Patrick-Gardner, who was responsible for setting up the CMS, which oversees the administrative operations of the courts, was serving then as the commission’s principal executive officer.
However, following an amendment to the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act in 2015, the CMS was replaced by the Court Administration Division.
Patrick-Gardner, however, challenged her forced retirement in the Full Court, which, in April 2018, in a unanimous decision, declared she had been unlawfully retired.
The court found then that the manner in which the claimant was purportedly retired was contrary to Section 125 (3) of the Constitution, Regulation 26 of the Public Service.
The judges also stated in their ruling that “the purported reasons given in the letter were irrational. Accordingly, the court granted an order of certiorari to quash the decision purporting to retire the claimant (Patrick-Gardner)”.
But the Court of Appeal judges, in their ruling, disagreed.
“The manner in which the respondent was retired was not contrary to Regulation 26 of the Public Service Regulations.
“Regulation 26 is to be interpreted as applying to the retirement of a public officer in circumstances where there is dissatisfaction with a public officer or where a public officer is unsuitable or unfit to remain in the public service,” the judges concluded.
Patrick-Gardner was represented by attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman.