Assistant Secretary: No malice in non-payment of Minority’s staff

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Certica Williams-Orr –

The non-payment of salaries to the staff of the Office of the Minority Leader was not an act of malice, says THA Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary Certica Williams-Orr.

The assistant secretary was responding to Minority Leader and representative for Darrel Spring/Whim Kelvon Morris who earlier this week complained that his office staff have not been paid their January salaries.

During the THA Executive Council’s Full Disclosure programme on Tobago Updates on Thursday, Williams-Orr said, “The non-payment of salaries, unfortunate as it is to the staff members of the Office of the Minority Leader, was not an act of victimisation or maliciousness by the executive or the Chief Administrator.”

She blamed the Clerk of the Assembly for approving the payment of the Minority Leader’s staff, for an initial six months, without any letter stating their terms of employment or formal contract.

She said staff were paid for approximately a year before the clerk ceased payment of their salaries.

Williams-Orr said the staffing of the Office of the Minority Leader remains an unresolved issue.

She said, in 2005 the then Executive Council had agreed to create three positions for the Office of the Minority Leader – research officer, secretary/office manager and messenger/ cleaner.

This, she said, continued until 2017, but it was later determined that those positions were insufficient to satisfy administrative and other needs of the Office of the Minority Leader.

An interim arrangement was worked out between the then Clerk of the Assembly and the then Chief Administrator, she said, for a research specialist, business operations co-ordinator, hospitality attendant/cleaner and driver/courier.

However, this recommendation was not formalised by the Executive Council.

“There was no approval. I can’t say whether the note was taken to the Executive Council and it was rejected – I cannot say, there is no evidence of it being taken to the Executive Council and being formalised.”

She said that Morris’s staff, except for one person, assumed duties on December 13, 2021. However, letters of offer by the Minority Leader to his staff were dated February 7, 2022.

Minority Leader Kelvon Morris –

Williams-Orr showed documents sent by Morris to the clerk seeking approval for the hiring of staff for six months.

“Nobody, or let me say, there is no documentation to show that the Chief Administrator nor the Executive Council was aware that staff was recruited to the Office of the Minority Leader…

“You cannot deny the Minority Leader (needs) staff, that is not questionable, we’re not questioning that at all but apparently there was some decision to hire staff for the Office of the Minority Leader on a short-term basis.”

She said Morris was not responsible for the human-resource element of the process and should have been advised about the protocol.

“There is going to be a review of the office of the Minority Leader. There is a draft note that is engaging the attention of the Executive Council but because of what is contained in that note, I had to get some information to satisfy or to corroborate what is in that note.”

She said she attended a meeting last Thursday with the clerk and the chief administrator and then became aware about the non-payment of salaries.

“At the meeting held last week, when the clerk said to me they are no longer being paid but they were paid up until December. I said you have carried them beyond one year, therefore short-term does not exist here. You have taken them into the realm of fixed-term contracts.”

Williams-Orr said she has not seen any new letters of offer by Morris to his staff for a further six months, nor was she provided with any approval by the clerk for the same.

She said she found it baffling that the Office of the Minority Leader staff continued to work beyond the initial six months and were paid.

Newsday made several attempts to contact Morris on the issue, but all calls and messages went unanswered.