Court confirms existing case law regarding civil servants in ‘acting’ functions



PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On Monday, March 15th, the Court in Civil Servants Matters rejected the claim of a police officer who claimed a right to be appointed as the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice, based on having acted in that position for several months. The Court reminded the police officer that there are procedures that need to be followed before an appointment by the Governor can take place, and an acting Secretary-General should have been aware of this.

A mere public announcement by a previous Minister that someone will fill the position of Secretary-General, cannot undermine or set aside the proper procedure to appoint a civil servant in this function, which is laid down in the law.

The Ministry of Justice is confronted with a number of claims of civil servants who have been told that if they are acting in a position, they have an automatic right to be appointed to the job and should go to court to have this ‘rectified’. This information is not correct. It is standing case law that special circumstances must apply before a court will rule that a civil servant could have reasonably expected to be appointed in the function which they filled during a vacancy or in the absence of the previously appointed person. In a Curacaolean case, a period of 12 years was not sufficient to create such an expectation.

Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson is aware of the large number of civil servants in the justice chain that are currently performing their roles in an ‘acting’ capacity, sometimes for years. As soon as the function books and scales have been established into law, the process of placing civil servants in their new functions with their updated salary scales will start.