Nipa to negotiate settlement with fired director Richards

POSTED: 09/29/15 5:54 PM

St. Maarten – The board of the National Institute for Professional Advancement and its fired director Vernon Richards have until October 7 to reach a settlement. If no settlement is reached, the Court in First Instance will take a decision about the director’s status. Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs has been suggested as the mediator in the conflict.

Richards sued the board in summary proceedings last week Wednesday. His attorney Cindy Marica filed an injunction that asks the court to declare the dismissal null and void, to pay salary-arrears up to September and to continue paying the salary until the agreement between parties has been legally dissolved.

Richards furthermore demands to be reinstated as director II at Nipa. Staff members at the school have signed statements saying that Richards was a “very capable, charismatic and professional director with whom they had a good relationship.” The staff members want Richards back at the school.

During the same hearing, Nipa’s attorney Reynold Groeneveldt asked the court to dissolve the labor contract with Richards because the relationship with the director was damaged beyond repair. He also noted that Richards had failed to follow instruction from the board for an open house for which several dignitaries had been invited.

Richards’ attorney denied that the relationship is irreparably damaged and that there are no grounds to terminate the contract. Marica filed a conditional counterclaim asking the court to award Richards a reasonable compensation based on his years of service, in case the court decides to grant the request to terminate the contract.

Attorney Jason Rogers, who presented the leadings in court on behalf of Cindy Marica, told the court that Nipa has a statutory director who would deal with the board and not Richards. “That alone is reason enough for reinstatement.” Rogers also pointed out that Richards had a very good relationship with the staff.

The judge advised to discuss a settlement through a third party. Groeneveldt indicated that Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs would be the right person for this.

The minister has asked Nipa in the past to withdraw the dismissal, but the board refused. Bourne-Gumbs said later that she has no power to overrule the board.

Rogers said that he is willing to discuss a settlement.


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