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Fired Port boss told to stay quiet by lawyers

Published: 
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dismissed acting Port Authority CEO/GM Charmaine Lewis is said to be consulting her attorney on her next move.

Lewis was unavailable yesterday as calls to her mobile phone went unanswered. But sources close to her told the T&T Guardian she has been advised not to speak to the media pending further advice. Lewis on Tuesday said she planned to explore her legal options since she felt she had been wrongfully dismissed.

The T&T Guardian also understands that Joint Select Committee chairman Stephen Creese has asked the secretariat to seek legal advice on the matter, since witnesses to the committee have the protection of Parliament. Lewis appeared before the JSC during its probe into the sea bridge. Creese’s mobile went to voicemail and messages left were not returned.

The JSC is said to be concerned there is a perception that Lewis’ dismissal is linked to evidence she gave to them and intends to send letters to the Port chairman Alison Lewis and Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan.

Meanwhile, Port employees were said to be upset at Lewis’ dismissal, describing her as a “hard worker and a mentor” who had their best interest at heart. Employees say they are now “fearful” of what can happen and are afraid to speak out publicly.

Workers also wondered if suspended T&T Inter-island Transport (TTIT) CEO Leon Grant will also be dismissed.

Grant was suspended several weeks ago after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, when he appeared before the JSC, raised concerns that Grant failed to bring to the attention of the board an email from the Cabo Star owners of an offer to lease the vessel to the country. Rowley said had that been done the country could have saved US$5000-US$6000 on the daily cost of the vessel, which has since been leased at a cost of US$22,500 per day. But Grant told the JSC he knew nothing about the e mail.

Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union president Michael Annisette also said yesterday that the board failed to observe “good industrial relations practices” when it dismissed Lewis by email.

He said the board had the option, if it felt it had lost trust and confidence in Lewis as acting CEO/GM, to reinstate her to her substantive position as deputy general manager of the Port Infrastructure Company POSINCO. In any event, he said good industrial relations demanded that the board bring concerns to her attention in writing and give her the opportunity to improve.

Dissecting the reasons given by the board for dismissing Lewis, Annisette took issue with the question of her refusal to go on vacation leave. He said the “fundamental principle is that you cannot force somebody to go on vacation leave, there must be mutual agreement.”

On the allegation that documents were deleted from her computer, he said the questions are “was the person given an opportunity to produce the documents or what is the policy of the port as it relates to deletion of documents on computers of senior management?” He said it is not about the person or the personality, but “the fundamental principle of good industrial relations practice. The person’s right to be heard and to seek advice.”

Efforts to contact port chairman Alison Lewis were unsuccessful yesterday.