August 10, 2012
Sam suspended, faces disciplinary enquiry

The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) employee who wrote a letter about the organisation, published in two local newspapers recently, has been suspended with half pay effective August 8, and a disciplinary enquiry instituted against him.{{more}}

Otto Sam told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday he was informed of the development by a “confidential” letter from the Chief Personnel Officer.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is taking action under Section 45 of the PSC regulation, Sam said, citing the letter.

“I really wasn’t doing anything there for the last three and a half months,” Sam said.

In his letter, published in SEARCHLIGHT and The News in June, under the caption “NEMO — an interesting organisation”, Sam said NEMO’s staff has not met since September 2011, although the hurricane season began on June 1.

“I have not been given any duties for the last three and a half months,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

He said the letter did not say why he was being disciplined, and, asked if he could think of any reasons for the action, Sam said: “It has not been stated …”

Asked if he thought his raising the issues in the press was inappropriate, Sam told SEARCHLIGHT: “I think that I probably would have been inappropriate if one has channels to discuss and address issues (inside NEMO).”

Sam, a career teacher, was transferred to NEMO two years ago.

He was reassigned after writing Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who broke protocol by not reporting to Sam before touring a school in his constituency, where Sam was headteacher.

He said “there is really no choice” but to go to the media when there are no channels inside NEMO and issues have been raised for the last two years.

“And also we must be mindful in our society that we still have our basic constitutional rights,” he said.

Asked about following an organisation’s guidelines notwithstanding one’s constitutional rights, Sam said:

“That is all part of the protocol issue. …

I think that there are a whole lot of other issues.

“I have challenged my judicial review matter the substantive case should be in October,” he said of his suing the state over his transfer two years ago.

“And I think it’s really a broader issue. … I think the whole issue of the judicial review coming up has something to do with it (the disciplinary action).”

NEMO falls under the Gonsalves-headed Ministry of National Security.

Sam said while he did not complain within the state mechanism outside of NEMO, he wrote NEMO director Howie Prince over the past three months, but got “not even an acknowledgment”.

“… even sometimes when I wrote on any issue there, the director might just throw it on his desk.”

Sam, however, said taking the issues to the press “may not have been the best option.”

He, however, said, “… let’s remember that NEMO is also a national institution that also has a particular mandate …”

He said there were issues of inefficiency and ineffectiveness at the state agency, charged with managing natural and manmade disasters.

“… We are in the heart of the hurricane season and you raise it inside and it is not going anywhere – just raise it. I mean if it comes down to this, well…” Sam said.

He told SEARCHLIGHT he was “absolutely not” trying to become a martyr and gain public sympathy.

“When I went to NEMO, I set about to give my best. I was not given the opportunity. Whenever I was given the opportunity to serve, I served and I have endured these things for virtually two years. I have not written about them, I have not spoken about them. …

“The Service Commissions has a right to do what it wants and … one has that right also,” he said.

He is hoping that with his actions “those inside will listen … and amend their ways. That is all.”

Sam further said that he did not set out to embarrass NEMO.

“Absolutely not. In fact, I did an internal memo to Mr Prince when these matters were referred to the PS (permanent secretary). … but there is no listening — absolutely no listening,” Sam told SEARCHLIGHT.

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