Dismissal head finance department Bas Roorda ruled legal

POSTED: 05/22/11 4:58 PM

Court orders ministers to public witness hearing

St. Maarten – The dismissal of the head of the finance department Bas Roorda was legal and the government does not have to take him back or continue to pay his salary. However, in a separate ruling the Court in First Instance allowed Roorda to hear four witnesses about the true reason for his dismissal. These witnesses – Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto, Justice Minister Roland Duncan, Secretary General Sherry Hazel and the secretary of the Council of Ministers Cassandra Janssen – will be heard in a public court session. The court denied a request by the government to hear the witnesses behind closed doors.

Roorda demanded in summary proceedings on May 13 to get the opportunity to return to work and to order the government to keep paying his salary until his contract would end legally and not apparently unreasonable.

Roorda’s attorney mr. Maarten le Poole pointed out during the hearing on May 13 that Roorda’s dismissal requires a national decree signed by the Governor, and that the Council of Ministers is not authorized to dismiss his client.

Judge Mr. D.M. Thierry arrived at a different conclusion, based on the Dutch Audit Ordinance as well as the local Audit Ordinance. From this legislation the Judge concluded that a minister is authorized to terminate labor contracts under civil law.

“The preliminary conclusion is that Roorda cannot claim employment. Currently he does not have a labor contract with the country,” Mr. Thierry ruled.

Roorda also claimed employment based on the assumption that the court would allow him to return to work in a regular proceeding based on the fact that his dismissal was unreasonable. But the court opted to leave the question whether the dismissal was apparently unreasonable unanswered in summary proceedings.

The reason for this position is that Roorda only claimed re-employment while the court ruled that the circumstances of the case make this impossible.

Judge Thierry pointed out in the ruling that a legal obligation to provide employment does not exist. The obligation to act as a good employer also does not imply that an employee must be provided with work all the time.

The Judge stated that the Secretary General of the Finance Ministry, Sherry Hazel, and Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto both had made clear during the May 13 hearing that they have no confidence whatsoever in Roorda anymore. “An intensive and fruitful collaboration with his superiors must be considered an illusion while – considering the position Roorda had and his responsibilities – mutual trust is indispensable.”

mr. Thierry made clear in his ruling that the court does not answer the question whom is to blame for the labor conflict and whether damages based on apparent unreasonable dismissal will have to be paid.

The ruling about hearing witnesses was more successful for Roorda. The court granted the request to hear Finance Minister Shigemoto, his Secretary General Sherry Hazel, Justice Minister Roland Duncan and the secretary of the Council of Ministers Cassandra Janssen as witnesses in a public court hearing. Roorda will also appear as a witness on that occasion.

Roorda wants to prove that the real reason for his dismissal was the fact that he filed a complaint with the National Detective Agency (the Landsrecherche) on March 31 about irregularities with funds for business trips. Roorda’s dismissal letter states that he violated his oath of secrecy. In a later explanation, the government alluded that Roorda provided information about pension premiums to the financial supervisor Cft while he had no permission to do so from the Minister or from his Secretary General.

The court rejected the government’s objections to hearing the witnesses. The government had argued that both parties were fully aware of all the facts of the case and that there was nothing to discuss. The court noted that Roorda contests the reason for his dismissal. “Hearing witnesses is necessary to establish which facts can be proven against the country in a procedure,” Judge Thierry ruled.

The government asked the court to hear the witnesses behind closed doors, given the confidential character of matters that are discussed in the Council of Ministers.

Judge Thierry referred to an article in the civil law that establishes that witnesses are heard in public. There are a few exceptions and when they apply the court has the authority to decide that a hearing takes place behind closed doors. When good morals, public order or national security are at stake, or when the interest of minors need to be protected the court will opt for a closed hearing. But these conditions do not apply, the court ruled.

The witnesses will be heard at the courthouse in the presence of Judge Mr. R.W.J. van Veen. Roorda will have to submit within two weeks to the court when the witnesses and their attorneys are able to appear, before the court will set a date and time for the hearing.

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