Council of Appeals says prison director was rightly dismissed

May 29, 2023  -The Daily Herald News -PHILIPSBURG–Former director of the Pointe Blanche prison Edward Rohan was lawfully fired by the governor of St. Maarten in 2021, it was stated in a judgment of the Council of Appeals in Civil Service Affairs, which was pronounced Wednesday, May 24.

In his position as prison director Rohan provided personal data about detainees who were eligible to vote to then Member of Parliament (MP) Silvio Matser in the run-up to the August 2014 parliamentary election.

Rohan unsuccessfully filed a case with the Civil Service Court against his dismissal in 2021, which he appealed. He was working as prison director since August 1, 2012. In his decision to dismiss Rohan, the governor referred to the criminal verdict of the Court of First Instance of February 21, 2018.

Rohan was suspended from his job in 2017 after it emerged he was a suspect in a criminal investigation. One year later, he was sentenced to 160 days, 80 of which were suspended, on two years’ probation.

The court found him guilty of providing Matser with a list containing the names of 80 eligible detainees among the prison population of 135. In his turn, Matser bribed these detainees with US $100 payments to vote for him. Rohan filed a final appeal against his conviction with the Supreme Court in The Hague.

He was fired for dereliction of duty for breach of confidentiality, but Rohan contested his dismissal. The former prison director claimed that in election time it was customary for politicians to ask the prison for a list of voting inmates’ details in order to conduct interviews with them.

However, providing details of voting prisoners under his supervision and care to a politician for election purposes cannot be equated with publishing a list of eligible voters within the prison walls, the Council of Appeals stated.

Rohan should not have relied on what may have been customary in the past, but should have realised that the provision of personal data of detainees to third parties, which he possessed by virtue of his position, is not possible without the consent of these detainees, the council stated.

The governor has rightly classified this as a very serious dereliction of duty and was entitled to impose a disciplinary punishment, the council said.

According to Rohan, his dismissal was disproportionate to the nature and seriousness of the breach of duty. Represented in these procedures by attorney Shaira Bommel, he claimed that he has never been disciplined before and that there have been no previous complaints about his performance. Furthermore, the consequences of his dismissal are serious. He lost his income and there are consequences for his further career and pension.

According to the court, the governor, who was represented by attorney Peggy-Ann Brandon, rightly sets high standards for the integrity of civil servants. These apply all the more to senior officials in the judiciary system.

“Integrity violations damage trust in society,” the Council of Appeals stated. “Therefore, the governor was rightly allowed to give decisive weight in his consideration to the circumstance that the credibility of the Ministry of Justice would be at stake if the appellant were to retain his position. The consequences of the dismissal, as alleged by the appellant, do not outweigh this. Therefore, there is no conflict with the principle of proportionality.”

Rohan’s appeal failed as the Council of Appeals arrived at the conclusion that the governor was permitted to exercise his authority to dismiss him.

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