Former BoE executive secretary finally gets court date on wrongful dismissal suit

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After five years, two months and four days since the High Court first struck down the government’s attempt to dismiss her case against Education Minister Michael Browne, and Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, the former Board of Education (BoE) executive secretary D Gisele Isaac, has finally been given a hearing date of March 20th, 2020.

In May 2018, Isaac celebrated a seeming victory after the Privy Council struck down the government’s appeal to dismiss her case against the Minister of Education and the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda.

But five months after that decision was handed down, no action had been taken in the courts to hear the substantive matter of Isaac’s claim of wrongful suspension and subsequent dismissal from her post at the BoE.

Instead, the government sought to have the current chair of the BoE, Denise Gardner, file an affidavit indicating why the names of Michael Browne, the Attorney General and former BoE Financial Administrator, Leslie-Ann Yearwood, should not all appear on the suit.

This attempt to remove the names from the suit, Isaac said, was struck down by the courts last Friday.

But, her court challenge against the state is far from over because the Privy Council’s decision now paves the way for the substantive case to proceed in the High Court.

In 2014, Isaac had filed a wrongful dismissal suit against Browne and Benjamin after she was suspended and then constructively dismissed from her post in that year.

“We sought damages because I was never given the opportunity to be a part of this investigation,” Isaac told OBSERVER media yesterday.

“Even though I had a letter from the Cabinet, my suspension letter indicated that there would be an investigation in keeping with good industrial relations practices that I would have a chance to be heard … I never was heard.”

She also spoke of the now infamous “6,000 page report” which was published, she said, and spoken of on media by various parties in the public domain.

“The consequences of that,” Isaac explained, “were very, very adverse to me. People felt that they could go on social media and accuse me and just tear down my name.”

With a court date now in view, both parties must now make their final submissions to the High Court before the end of the year.

The former board secretary is also taking issue with the inclusion of the present Board Chairman into the suit, Gardner, who was appointed to the BoE in April of this year.

“My matter has nothing to do with Denise Gardner,” Isaac insisted. “She’s the chairman now; she was not the chairman [when the matter was first heard].

“My matter has nothing to do with the Board of Education.”

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