Today’s Opinion: The Roorda letters

POSTED: 05/22/11 4:59 PM

Court documents released yesterday reveal the text of two letters relevant to the dismissal of the head of the finance department Bas Roorda.

The first letter, dated March 31 2011 is signed by Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto. This is the dismissal letter that followed after Roorda went to the National Detective Agency with his findings that civil servants claimed money for business trips on days that they were not traveling at all, but remained in St. Maarten.

This is the text of the letter.

“Considering one month’s notice, phrased in article 5 of your labor contract, the Council of Ministers decided today to terminate you labor contract with Country St. Maarten per May 1 2011 because you did not behave the way a good employee should. You did not abide by the pledge of secrecy that has been agreed upon in your labor contract, by, in spite of several warnings, sharing information with third parties without prior permission from your superior or your minister.

You will be suspended immediately while retaining your salary.

Your remaining vacation days will be paid out. You are requested to hand over the keys of your office, all materials, documents and written records that have been made available to you by the Country St. Maarten to acting Secretary General of Finance, Mrs. Sherry Hazel.

We wish you success with you subsequent career.

On behalf of the Council of Ministers,

Minister of Finance,

H. Shigemoto.”

The letter triggered a rapid response, whereby Roorda’s attorney mr. Maarten le Poole stated in a letter dated April 5 that only the Governor is authorized to terminate the contract and that the reason for the dismissal is unreasonable, because a contract worker cannot be reproached for executing a legal obligation. The court ruled yesterday however that the Minister is authorized to terminate a labor contract.

Two days later Roorda asked the Finance Minister for information about the exact facts and circumstances that amount according to the Council of Ministers to his violation of his pledge of secrecy.

This is a large part of the response the government sent on April 15 to Roorda’s attorney Le Poole.

“(….) Considering the knowledge your client had about the Minister’s position about pension premiums, the political sensitivity regarding the discussion about the 2011 budget and the high and responsible position your client held, your client should have refrained from providing information to the Cft (the financial supervisor – ed.) about the pension premiums until he obtained permission to do so from the Minister or from his direct supervisor, Mrs. S. Hazel.

Further we remark that the intention to terminate the labor contract with your client already existed before your client filed a complaint about the irregularities he claims to have discovered about business trips of civil servants. Your client’s complaint is therefore not the basis for the decision to terminate the labor contract with your client. The proposition that the Justice Minister, R.E. Duncan, expressed words along the line that this would be the last appearance of your client in the Council of Ministers is at odds with the truth and is rejected resolutely.

For the sake of completeness we remark that there were doubts about your client’s loyalty to the organization of the government in St. Maarten. In November of last year the Minister heard that your client told a third party that the Dutch government ought to put St. Maarten under higher supervision. The Ministers has brought this to the attention of your client.

Furthermore information reached the Minister at the beginning of this month that your client again expressed himself in a negative way about St. Maarten and the finance department.

It may be clear that your client has violated his pledge of secrecy and that for this reason his labor contract has been terminated. The violation of the pledge of secrecy and your client’s negative statements about St. Maarten and the finance department have resulted in the fact that there is no longer confidence in the functioning of your client as the head of the finance department at the Resources Directorate. (…).”

Roorda’s attorney pointed out last week that the matter of the pension premiums was already known to the Cft on October 21 of last year and that there it is therefore out of the question that his client violated his pledge of secrecy. Roorda has also denied that he told others that St. Maarten ought to be put under higher supervision, or that he made negative remarks about his employer.

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