The Accreditation Council of TT (ACTT) is under threat of a lawsuit from its Acting Corporate Secretary for overlooking him for the post and also for monies owed for past acting stints, this as the body struggles with financial constraints.
Research Officer-Legal, Junior Nagassar, through his attorney Douglas Bayley is requesting back dated payment for the periods June 4 to 14, 2019 and July 1 to October 21, 2019, totalling $39,188.42. Bayley, who wrote to ACTT Executive Director Dr Eduardo Ali on March 3, gave ACTT 28 days in which to respond to the claims in his 10 page pre-action protocol letter.
The second claim is that ACTT advertised the position externally without considering him although he acted in the position on at least three occasions and was qualified for the promotion. Bayley stated that the external advertisement, which ran simultaneously with an internal one, contravened the recruitment policy of ACTT which states that any openings will be given to qualified employees. Bayley said Nagassar has both the experience, having been acting throughout his five years at the institution, and is qualified with a bachelor’s degree in law and near completion of a masters degree. He said the advertisement should have been sent internally first and then externally if no suitable candidate was selected.
Nagassar also instructed his attorney to request the minutes of a board meeting on November 27, 2019 when the decision was made not to compensate his client. Bayley also filed a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of the January 30 board meeting when the decision to advertise the post internally and externally simultaneously, and all matters relating to the hiring practices within ACTT, including the minutes of board meetings for the internal advertisement to hire a research officer, executive assistant and IT officer. Bayley also requested Nagassar’s job appraisal and all communication between the ACTT and the Ministry of Education relating to his acting stints.
Nagassar, who has been employed at ACTT since February 2015, acted in the position as corporate secretary on five occasions beginning seven months after he was hired. On each occasion, he was paid the salary difference between his substantive role and the acting one. The pre-action protocol letter stated that Nagassar was not paid because his acting was not approved since he acted while the ACTT had no board of directors. Instead of the difference in salary, as was done in the past, Nagassar was given 10 per cent of the base salary of the Corporate Secretary.
“When the board was eventually appointed, there was a meeting on November 27, 2019, at which point the board refused payment of the difference in salary and allowances for the periods June 4 to 14, 2019 and July 1 to October 21. The board instead granted approval for the payment of the difference in salary and allowances for the period October 22, 2019, to present.”
Nagassar is still acting in the capacity as Corporate Secretary of the ACTT. His lawsuit has placed ACTT in a peculiar position as a planned board meeting last Thursday had to be postponed. In an email sent to board members last week, Chairman of the board June George said the postponement was due to covid-19 and “legal challenges”.
In the email dated, March 20, George said she was surprised by the lawsuit since Nagassar did not inform her of his grievances even though they were in constant contact on several ACTT matters.
Part of his duties as Corporate Secretary is to advise the board on legal matters. However, given that he is now suing the board he cannot advise them. ACTT then has to either retain external legal counsel or hire a different Corporate Secretary.
At a Joint Select Committee of the Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities in February, ACTT said they are running on financial fumes. ACTT Executive Director Dr Eduardo Ali told the JSC that their accounts could not cover salaries and rentals. The JSC was called to look into the efficiency and effectiveness of the ACTT.