House of Assembly appointments being challenged in court
Deborah Charles, Clerk of the House of Assembly.
January 5, 2024
House of Assembly appointments being challenged in court

The Public Service Union (PSU), has revealed that one of its members has filed a court case against the Public Service Commission challenging two appointments which were made in the House of Assembly last year.

In June 2023, it was announced that Deborah Charles will be appointed to the position of Clerk of the House of Assembly. The former Unity Labour Party (ULP) senator took over the position from Nicole Herbert who entered into retirement leave after serving 25 years in that capacity. Simone Williams-Huggins also received an appointment to the position of Deputy Clerk of the House of Assembly.

Charles’ appointment came with much criticism, particularly from the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), and the PSU with the trade union going so far as to call for the revocation of the appointment.

During a press conference on Thursday, January 4, 2024, PSU president, Elroy Boucher provided the details of the case brought against the Public Service Commission by civil servant, Celena McDonald who, as stated by Boucher, has worked in the House for over a decade and is academically qualified by way of a Master’s Degree.

The claimant is calling on the High Court to rule that the Public Service Commission, with the appointments of Charles and Williams-Huggins to the positions of Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the House of Assembly respectively, acted unfairly and unlawfully, violated the principles of selection for appointment and promotion, and also violated Regulation 18 of the Public Service Commission Regulation by failing or refusing to advertise the posts.

“If you were to do a search you will find that none of those posts were advertised and there are persons within the public service who are qualified. The claimant is qualified and has acted in that position on numerous occasions,” Boucher told members of the media.

The claim filed by McDonald also calls for an order to quash the appointments of both Charles and Williams-Huggins.

In 2019, the PSU brought a similar challenge against the Commission, with the High Court ruling that the Commission did violate the regulations of fairness, transparency and efficiency with the promotions for which five civil servants were eligible.

“We therefore found it necessary to continue the litigation against the Public Service Commission….

“Anytime an appointment is made in the public service and the PSU finds that it is made contrary to the regulations we will challenge once the affected or aggrieved member comes forward.”

Boucher reiterated that the way the Clerk and Deputy Clerk were appointed is “flawed and illegal”.

Boucher revealed that McDonald was transferred over to another Ministry around the same time that the appointments were to be made, but to date she is still listed as functioning under the department of the House of Assembly.

The case will return to court in May.