It’s the end of the legal road for former Transport Inspector James Ifill, who has been challenging his compulsory retirement from the public service, following his conviction almost 15 years ago on several charges of misconduct.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the island’ final court, today dismissed Ifill’s appeal which was filed on the grounds that his removal from office contravened Section 98 of the Constitution and that the investigation into his dismissal was unfair.
In October 2002, Ifill, who was attached to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport for 18 years, was slapped with ten disciplinary charges. An investigation conducted by senior public officer Carlos Belgrave found him guilty of seven of the charges, the majority of which were related to prolonged and undocumented absences from work.
As a result of the findings, the Public Service Commission advised the Governor General that Ifill should be compulsorily resigned from the public service.
The Governor General accepted the advice and notified Ifill in a letter issued on July 31, 2003, that he had the right to take his case to the local Privy Council within 21 days.
Ifill failed to take action and, as a result, his compulsory resignation took effect on November 1, 2003.
Nearly five years later, Ifill unsuccessfully argued his case before the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The jurists dismissed the matter on the grounds that the investigation was appropriately and fairly conducted.
In its ruling, the CCJ said it reviewed the Belgrave investigation and was satisfied that Ifill had received a “full, natural justice hearing”.
The Trinidad-based court noted that he was given every opportunity to respond to the charges, confirmed by his successful defence of three of the ten charges laid against him.
The regional court also rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that he had mistakenly assumed that a judgment had already been made against him after he received the letter informing him of the Governor’s General’s acceptance of the advice of the Public Service Commission.
While the court acknowledged that the language in the letter was “inapt” and ought to have informed Ifill that the Governor General had “received” the advice of the Commission as opposed to “accepted” it, the Court considered that Ifill continued to have legal representation even after the investigator’s report.
Furthermore, the CCJ rejected Ifill’s claim that compulsory resignation was inappropriate sanction in his case, since it was expressly provided for in the regulations.
“The court pointed out that the sanction of compulsory resignation was, in fact, advantageous to Ifill since it allowed him to still collect his pension . . . . If he was dismissed from office, he would be unable to do so,” it said.
No costs were awarded.