The Attorney General’s Chambers has discontinued its appeal of a 2011 court decision that once restricted the way government could investigate allegations of wrongdoing against public officers, court records show.
The matter may have been drawn out longer than necessary: It appears that government persisted in its appeal despite the fact that the broader legal ramifications at stake were resolved about two years ago with the passage of a new law.
Julian Willock, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, successfully sued the Public Service Commission, Governor Boyd McCleary and other government officials in 2010.
Mr. Willock argued that Mr. McCleary had illegally appointed a three-member committee to investigate allegations made in a 2010 Beacon article that expatriate employees of his firm Advance Marketing & Professional Services worked without work permits.
High Court Justice Rita Joseph-Olivetti agreed, quashing a report of the committee’s findings but leaving the door open for the PSC to open a new investigation.
Instead, Baba Aziz, who was then acting as the territory’s attorney general, appealed Ms. Joseph-Olivetti’s ruling in May 2011.
After that, the matter languished before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal largely due to Mr. Willock’s frequent lack of legal representation.
Meanwhile, after more than two years of paid compulsory leave, Mr. Willock was fired from the public service in 2012 for undisclosed reasons.
In January of this year, Mr. Willock, who by then had retained an attorney, told the court that he wanted the Attorney General’s Chambers to drop government’s appeal.
The judges were sympathetic: Because Mr. Willock had been dismissed from the public service in 2012, they questioned the fairness of further litigating an “academic” issue at his expense.
But Maya Barry, a Crown counsel with the chambers, told the court in January that it is in the “public interest” to resolve the legal questions at issue in the case: Since the ruling, she explained, officials have been impaired in conducting preliminary investigations into allegations of wrongdoing against public officers.
But such concerns may have been misplaced. A 2011 law passed months after Mr. Willock successfully challenged government’s investigatory procedure appears to have made the “academic” issues raised in the appeal irrelevant.
While appointing the committee to investigate the former permanent secretary, the governor relied in part on the Public Service Commission regulations, Crown attorneys have said.
But those regulations were superseded on Oct. 31, 2011 with the implementation of the Service Commissions Act. The act allows commissions “from time to time to appoint one or more committees to assist with conducting investigations in relation to disciplinary proceedings,” according to the Gazette.
Records at the High Court Registry accessed Monday indicate that the AG’s appeal has been “discontinued” but do not state when or why.
Attempts to reach Attorney General Dr. Christopher Malcolm were not successful as of the Beacon’s print deadline yesterday.
Mr. Willock did not respond to requests for comment for this article. But he was quoted in an article by Virgin Islands News Online, which he owns through its parent company AMPS, as saying that the discontinuance of the appeal is a “victory for all public officers.”