Contending that he was wrongfully dismissed from his post Director of Projects within the Ministry of Public Health, Rudolph Small is suing the State for in excess of $25M for breach of contract. The lawsuit, which was filed by Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall on behalf of Small, listed Attorney General Basil Williams as the Defendant.
According to a Statement of Claim (SOC), Small, the Claimant, is also asking the court to award him special damages in the sum of USD$208,000; aggravated damages; interest, costs, and any such order that the court deems fit.
The court document said in 2016, Smith worked with the USA Immigration and Customs Enforcement by virtue of a secondment from the United States Public Health Service. He had attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander, serving as the Field Medical Coordinator for New York City with responsibility for the provision of quality medical and ancillary services to all detainees in custody of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For that year, his basic pay was USD$71,604 and he received a basic housing allowance and subsistence of USD$56,448 and USD$3, 034 respectively. Therefore, his total income stood at USD$131,095.56.
Smith outlined that his qualifications are as follows: A Bachelor of Science (Biology) Degree from Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA which he obtained in the July 1989; a Master’s of Science, Environmental Health, from Hunter College, New York, NY, which he obtained in May 1995; a Post-Graduate Diploma, Project Management from the University of Pittsburgh-Katz School of Business, Pittsburgh, PA, which he obtained in July 2002; a Bachelor of Science, Nursing Degree from Dominican College, Orangeburg, NY which he obtained in May 2008, and a Post-Graduate Diploma, Legal Nurse Consultant from the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, Chicago, IL which he obtained in May 2014.
According to him, in 2016, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan whom he knew long before informed him that there was an available post within the Ministry of Public Health to impact the well-being of Guyanese women and children, and he expressed an interest because he wanted to make a contribution to the land of his birth.
“The said Minister of Finance informed the Claimant (Small) that Guyana was in jeopardy of losing one billion, six hundred million Guyana Dollars (G$1.6B) in Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funding for a maternal and child-health improvement programme, and that once the Claimant is interested, the Government of Guyana will nominate the Claimant to the IDB as a person suitable to administer the project,” the Statement of Claim said.
The court documents said that Small later received a call from the IDB informing him that he was nominated by the Government of Guyana to serve as Consultant/Project Coordinator for the said project and requested him to submit his Curriculum vitae. It said that Small complied and was subsequently interview by an IDB panel and was offered the consultancy.
Small said that he was informed by Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health Trevor Thomas that Minister Jordan was urging that he expedite the terms and condition to the IDB contract, but he informed that he would be unable to depart the USA for Guyana for a six months contract.
He said that, he was however assured by Thomas that the project was for a duration of five years and that he would be given a government contract to serve as the Project Director for the life of the project, since the IDB had already approved candidacy as Project Coordinator/Consultant. The Claimant pointed out that he and the Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, negotiated an addendum to the said contract.
According to the Statement of Claim, “After the addendum to the IDB was agreed upon, the Claimant began visiting Guyana, using Paid Time Off (PTO) from his job in the United States, from October 2016 to January 2017. The Claimant was invited to the Office of the Minister of Public Health in January 2017, and was requested to help the Ministry of Health to prepare a project document for a proposed mental health complex, that was being put up for funding by the Islamic Development Bank. The Ministry of Public Health was behind with its submission and required the Claimant’s expertise to expedite the process.”
The SOC outlined that the Claimant was also requested to assist with the health project slated for funding by the Indian Government, as well as the Islamic Development Bank Project and that given the ever expanding work assignments, Thomas, Executive Director of the Health Sector Development Unit (HSDU), Dr. Morris Edwards, and him, commenced meeting to formulate a new structure for the HSDU.
The Claimant was assigned as the Director of Projects and his contract was negotiated with Minister George Norton after approval and concurrence was received from Minister Lawrence. It was stated that as a result of the foregoing, on January, 31, 2017, a written contract was executed between the Government and Small. He was engaged to perform the duties and functions of Director of Projects within the Ministry of Public Health, for the terms of engagement and to act in all respects in accordance with the instructions and directions given to him by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health, effective from February 01, 2017, to the January 31, 2020.
His monthly salary was set at USD$5,000 which was subject to certain terms and conditions set out in a Schedule attached to the said agreement and which formed part of the said agreement. However, in lieu of his new contract, the Claimant contends that the Minister of Public Health ceased paying allowances stipulated in the addendum to the IDB contract, since it was subsumed in the his new contract.
“After Mr. Trevor Thomas was dismissed, the new Permanent Secretary, Ms. Collette Adams, advised the Claimant to continue working, as the Claimant possessed a valid contract. Consequently, the Claimant was informed that he could no longer be paid since Mr. Trevor Thomas had no authority to issue the contract,” the SOC added.
It added, “The Claimant maintains that at all material times, his contract was approved by the former Minister of Health, the then Minister of Health and was signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, who was duly authorised to do so. By a letter dated 7th of June, 2017, Ms. Collette Adams, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, wrongfully and in repudiatory breach of the said agreement, purported to terminate the Claimant’s employment and wrongfully dismissed the Claimant.”
The letter stated, “I wish to inform you that a review was undertaken by Administration, and it was confirmed that no approval exist for your employment as Director of Projects. The Ministry’s review also confirmed that since no approval exist, the payment of emoluments and the processing of any other condition of service therein, has become recoverable.”
It added, “Administration subsequently sought advice from the Ministry of the Presidency and the following was recommended;
(a)Employment contract which you signed on 31st January, 2017,
(b)Supplemental Agreement executed as an Addendum to the (PEC) Consultancy Services for Maternal and Child Health Improvement Project.
…to be null and void for the want of competent authority.”
“As you may recall, my letter dated 10th March, 2017 for you to repay payments that were made for rental of building, this request was not honoured to date. Based on the recommendation from Department of the Public Service which indicated that there is no authorised position as Director of Projects and no approval was granted for the employment of the said position, the Ministry therefore, wishes to advise you that the contract on your position is null and void,” the letter concluded.
As a consequence of this, the Claimant argues that he suffered loss and damages. According to the Claimant, his claim for special damages includes a salary of USD$180,000 from February 1, 2017 to January 31, 2020, gratuity of USD$13,500 and vacation allowance of USD$15,000.
Had he remained in his employment in the United States, which he forfeited for the offer to work in Guyana, the Claimant said that his remuneration would have earned a salary of USD$125,760.36 for 2017 and 2018 respectively; and USD$139,620.36 for 2019.
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