Labega’s hypothetical conviction taken up in contract

POSTED: 06/24/11 12:41 PM

“We have arrived at the best candidate for the airport.”

St. Maarten – The Supervisory Board of Directors of the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company is the latest group to publicly support Regina Labega’s appointment as Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company. They also confirmed at a press conference Thursday morning that her five year contract has a stipulation that she will step down if she is convicted of a crime.

“There has been a lot of choice and thought going into our selection. Our reaction has been that we would not condemn Ms. Labega before she is found guilty. Besides the Public Prosecutor, from what I know, has not even looked at the information and decided to prosecute Ms. Labega. So we asked ourselves should a person stop living and stop looking after their future. Also you find that clause in most contracts and to be clear it was not inserted because Ms. Labega has this investigation hanging over her. It’s a standard thing because nobody wants a criminal working for them,” Joseph Peterson, who is acting as caretaker at the Holding Company said.

Attorney at law and Supervisory Board Member Richard Gibson Jr. added, “I am not sure that we have a precarious situation because things are still not clear with that investigation.”

The process to appoint Labega was started because the Supervisory Board of Directors of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company did not submit a candidate to the Board of the Holding Company two months after the former Managing Director and now Governor drs Eugene Holiday had stepped down. The two month window is stipulated in Article 8 subsection 1 of the company’s Articles of Incorporation. In fact it was at the three month mark that the Board of the Holding Company decided to start its own procedure to hire someone. Peterson then approached the Shareholder Representative – Vice Prime Minister Theodore Heyliger – and informed him of the Holding Company’s intentions. Heyliger recommended Labega and Peterson replied that he’d meet Labega to determine whether she was interested in the post. He also told Heyliger that Labega would be subjected to the same level of screening as anyone else who’d applied.

“The minister’s words to me were you do what you have to do,” Peterson said.

Peterson would later meet Labega. At that time she confirmed her interest and followed up by submitting an application with her Curriculum Vitae attached on January 15, 2011. At the same time Peterson asked Clarence Derby, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Operating Company for an update on their process to identify a candidate. He was informed that 16 people had applied – six that were staffers at the airport and 10 who were not attached to the airport in any way – and been screened by Price Waterhouse Coopers who handled the selection procedure. From that field of 16 they’d narrowed it to four people – two from the airport and two not attached to the airport and Peterson requested Price Waterhouse Coopers screen that group and Ms. Labega. That screening included a two part psychological evaluation that looked at general mental health and direct elements linked to the job at the airport. All the candidates agreed and after the screening Labega emerged basically neck and neck with another candidate who was too old and who did not reside on St. Maarten.

“There was one candidate that emerged as slightly better in the psychological evaluation but Article 7 sub 1 of the Articles of Incorporation states that a director shall resign at the end of the fiscal year where he or she reaches 60. This person had already reached 60, was not a local and was not residing in St. Maarten so I called the gentleman, informed him he had come out just about on top, but that we could not offer him the post because of his age,” Peterson said.

He added, “We have now concluded that in keeping with the statutes and the tests by an independent agency, we have arrived at the best candidate for the airport and I cannot but disagree with the statements and innuendo. So I also ask should we take second or third best. I don’t think we should take second or third or fourth best. You do what you can to put the best, so you can beat the competition around you.”

Corporate Governance Council

Even though the Board did not wish to “discuss the matter of government, government owned companies and the Corporate Governance Council” Peterson opined that the matter is a work in progress and “a lesson we are learning.” He also affirmed the company’s willingness to cooperate.

“We will work together with the CGC. What we must realize though is that some things can be fixed in a short time and others take more time and there are still matters that are subjective including the question of what information should be given. For example there are instances, and I’m not saying it was in this case, where the Council wanted to know how we came to the salary of an employee,” Peterson said.

The Board has also said it does not agree with the Council’s assessment that there should be a Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operations Officer next to Labega.

“In the past 15 years there has been no discussion about such a necessity for adding two more Managing Directors and the airport has not done that bad. Besides that the airport has a Head of Finance and an Operations Officer that Ms. Labega will have access to,” Peterson said.

Caretaker role

Peterson is acting as caretaker because no one has been appointed Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company since his contract expired. Once someone is appointed Peterson will no longer act as caretaker.


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