Valerie Robinson-James, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education, should be fired or moved to another role over a bungled bid to fire Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans, his lawyers said yesterday.
Mark Diel of law firm Marshall Diel & Myers made the demand as one of four conditions for Dr Evans waiving legal action against the Governor, the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Education in connection with an attempt to dump him from his job.
A letter from Mr Diel on Wednesday to lawyers acting for the PSC said education authorities could avoid potentially expensive damages claims if Dr Evans continued in his post.
Mr Diel also asked for a public retraction and apology from the PSC, the education ministry and Ms Robinson-James. The letter added that Ms Robinson-James, “given her obvious and improper conduct”, should be moved to another ministry or fired.
And it asked for Dr Evans’s legal fees “be paid in full”.
The legal moves come less than two weeks after an e-mail from Ms Robinson-James to public school principals and teachers said that Dr Evans “has been relieved of his responsibilities as Commissioner of Education”.
Education bureaucrats, however, were forced into an about-turn just days later and said “an administrative error” in correspondence to Dr Evans meant he had not been fired at all.
But the letter to Mr Diel from the PSC added “nor has he been confirmed in his post”.
It said: “The parties should govern themselves accordingly.”
The move came after Mr Diel pointed out that Dr Evans could not be fired after his six-month probationary period, which finished at the end of September, had expired and that it was “crystal clear” he could only be removed by Governor John Rankin.
The letter to the PSC’s lawyers said: “The result is that our client, through no fault of his own has had his reputation smeared through a series of acts that were either negligent or malicious.
“By way of example only, the permanent secretary, knowing that she had not received any communication from the Governor or any representative, took it upon herself to hold staff meetings and to publish to his colleagues and the press that our client had been relieved of his duties when that was obviously not the case.
“Finally, and perhaps even more egregiously, when the PSC finally stated that our client had not been terminated, she and the Ministry, despite urging from us, did not post any such retraction and have yet to do so.”
Mr Diel added: “Given the permanent secretary was the cause of this entire mess, it in fact should be she who ought to be terminated as opposed to our client.”
And he warned: “Further, at the risk of stating the obvious, the longer this matter continues without a retraction and apology, the greater the damages in defamation.”
Mr Diel added: “We should point out that any attempt to try and terminate our client now will be seen for the fiction that it is. For the last three-and-a-half years our client has performed his job and done it well.
“Any attempt to further tarnish our client’s excellent reputation as an educator will be met with further claims for damages.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education declined to comment yesterday.
A government spokeswoman added: “The Government doesn’t comment on internal personnel matters.”
• To read Mr Diel’s letter in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”