Claiming damages in excess of $25M, former Director of Projects within the Ministry of Public Health, Rudolph Small has moved to the High Court. There, he is challenging what he deems his wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.
In a Statement of Claim (SOC) filed by his lawyer Anil Nandlall, Small is seeking special damages to the tune of US$208,500; aggravated damages; interests;costs and such further and other orders the court may seem fit.
Attorney General Basil Williams has been listed as the defendant in this matter.
According to Small, his qualifications include: Bachelor of Science (Biology) Degree from Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA which he obtained in the July, 1989; A Master’s of Science, Environmental Health, from Hunter College, New York, NY, which he obtained in May, 1995; A Post-Graduate Diploma, Project Management from the University of Pittsburgh-Katz School of Business, Pittsburgh, PA, which he obtained in July, 2002; A Bachelor of Science, Nursing Degree from Dominican College, Orangeburg, NY which he obtained in May, 2008; and a Post-Graduate Diploma, Legal Nurse Consultant from the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, Chicago, IL which he obtained in May, 2014.
He said that during 2016, he worked with the United States of America Immigration and Customs Enforcement by virtue of a secondment from the country’s Public Health Service having attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In that rank, he served as Field Medical Coordinator for the city of New York with responsibility for the provision of quality medical and axillary services to all detainees in custody of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to Small, his salary for that year was US$131,095.56 and included a basic pay of US$71,604 and housing and subsistence allowances of US$56,448 and US$3,043.56 respectively.
He added that, that the same year, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan invited him to take up a post within the Ministry of Public Health which had to do with the well-being of Guyanese women and children. It was a $1.6 billion Inter American Development Bank (IDB) funded project for a maternal and child health improvement programme.
According to him, the government nominated him to the IDB as a suitable person to administer the project.
The SOC noted, “The Claimant (Small) subsequently received a call from the IDB informing him that he was nominated by the Government of Guyana to serve as Consultant/Project Coordinator for the said project and requested him to submit his CV. The Claimant was then interviewed by an IDB Panel and was offered the consultancy.”
The SOC stated that Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Public Health Trevor Thomas assured Small that the project was for a duration of five years, and that he would be given a Government contract to serve as the Project Director, for the duration of the project, since the IDB had already approved candidacy as Project Coordinator/Consultant.
Small submitted that he and Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence negotiated an addendum to the said contract. From October 2016 to January 2017, he said he began visiting Guyana using Paid Time Off (PTO) from his job in the United States of America.
And that he was invited to the Office of the Minister of Health in January, 2017, and was requested to help the Ministry of Health to prepare a project document for a proposed mental health complex, that was being put up for funding by the Islamic Development Bank.
However, the Ministry of Public Health was behind with its submission and required the Claimant’s expertise to expedite the process.
“The Claimant was also requested to assist with the health project slated for funding by the Indian Government, as well as, the Islamic Development Bank Project. Given ever expanding work assignments, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, Mr. Trevor Thomas, Executive Director of the Health Sector Development Unit (HSDU), Dr. Morris Edwards and the Claimant, commenced meeting to formulate a new structure for the HSDU,” the SOC outlined.
It said, “Consequently, the Claimant was assigned as the Director of Projects. The Claimant’s contract was negotiated with Minister George Norton after approval and concurrence was received from Minister Volda Lawrence.”
The document further said, “As a result of the foregoing, on the 31st day of January, 2017, a written contract was executed between the Government of Guyana and the Claimant, whereby, the Claimant was engaged to perform the duties and functions of Director of Projects within the Ministry of Public Health, for the terms of engagement and to act in all respects in accordance with the instructions and directions given to him by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health, effective from the 1st day of February, 2017, to the 31st day of January, 2020, inclusive at a monthly salary of five thousand United States Dollars (US$ 5,000) subject to certain terms and conditions…”
According to court filings, “In lieu of the Claimant’s new contract, the Minister of Public Health ceased paying allowances stipulated in the addendum to the IDB contract, since it was subsumed in the Claimant’s new contract.”
Thomas was subsequently dismissed, the new Permanent Secretary, Collette Adams, advised him to continue working, as he possessed a valid contract, the SOC states. However, the Claimant was informed that he could no longer be paid since Thomas had no authority to issue the contract.
The Claimanttherefore maintains that at all material times, his contract was approved by the former Minister of Health ( Norton), the Minister of Health and was signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, who was duly authorised to do so.
Small argues that by a letter dated 7th of June, 2017, Adams wrongfully and in repudiatory breach of the said agreement, purported to terminate his employment and wrongfully dismissed him.
As a consequence, Small contends that he suffered loss and damage. He outlined that the particulars for special damages totalling $208, 500 includes US$180,000 which could have been his salary from the 1st February, 2017 –31st January, 2020.
Added to that he is also claiming three years gratuity totalling US$13,500 and vacation allowance of US$15,000.
According to Small, had he remained in his employment in the United States of America, which he forfeited for the offer to work in Guyana, his remuneration would have been a yearly income of US$125, 760.35 for 2017 and 2018 respectively and an income of US$136, 620.36 for 2019.