MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten.
~ Calls Hyman’s dismissal unacceptable ~
PHILIPSBURG--“It is unceremonious and unacceptable that Michel Hyman’s 28 years of service to the airport and country was erased in only three days without proper investigation,” says an “utterly displeased” United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Grisha Heyliger-Marten.
In a press release on Sunday, the chairperson of Parliament said she sent a letter to Prime Minister (PM) Silveria Jacobs and Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Roger Lawrence requesting them to attend a public meeting of Parliament on March 28, at 2:00pm to provide answers on the airport. “It is the people’s airport and they have a right to know the truth of what’s taking place,” she said in the release.
She is also questioning the rationale for the Airport’s Supervisory Board of Directors and the Board of the Airport’s Holding acting as “judge and jury” in the case of Hyman. “He has not been charged with an offence or convicted. The suspension with pay was pending investigation, but there has been nothing since his detention. It appears that there is more in the mortar besides the pestle. What is wrong with Hyman giving information to the owner of the company for which he works? Does the Supervisory Board have something to hide?” she asked.
Heyliger-Marten had requested a Parliamentary Inquiry in January to find the underlying cause of several allegations made regarding the management of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). She expects that within the coming days both Jacobs and Lawrence will gather their information and provide clarity to Parliament.
Heyliger-Marten said on March 14, 2022, incoming Managing Director for PJIA holding company PJIAH Keith Franca dismissed Hyman “for urgent reasons with immediate effect.” She said Hyman was reportedly given an official letter informing him of the urgent decision on March 17, 2022. “The allegations against Hyman concern a dossier sent to the ultimate Shareholder of PJIA, the government and Parliament of St. Maarten, outlining what Hyman, at the time COO [chief operating officer – Ed.], felt were significant concerns regarding the handling of PJIA that needed to be addressed,” it was stated in the release.
“While it appears from all accounts Hyman had gone through the proper channels when he filed his report over two years ago, Franca followed the recommendation of the Supervisory Board of Directors for PJIAE [PJIA operating company] and dismissed Hyman. The Supervisory Board is alleged to have had long-standing concerns over Hyman’s nine-day hiatus in 2021 during his brief detention by police. According to the board, they received no word about why Hyman was not showing up for work. This claim by the Supervisory Board members and the recommendation to dismiss Hyman is unsettling for MP Heyliger-Marten. One of her concerns is that the same board members were already aware that Hyman’s report shed light on some questionable activities on their party or during their tenure as members of the Supervisory Board,” it was stated in the release.
Heyliger-Marten said she believes that the 28-years of service Hyman gave to the airport deserved at the very least the time for the new managing director to investigate the matter, speak to all parties, including the accused and correctly mediate the situation. “I would also like to know, what if any, was the role of the shareholder TEATT Minister Roger Lawrence’s involvement or knowledge of this action carried out in this manner.”
Heyliger-Marten said PJIAE and PJIAH are both 100 per cent government owned. The Council of Ministers is the shareholder representative. If the claim is that Hyman’s dismissal was because he leaked information to the Council of Ministers and Parliament, it should not be considered leaking information.
“If the firing of Hyman was based on him ‘leaking information’ to the sole shareholder and owner of the airport, especially after first going to the shareholders representative, managing director of the holding company, then it must be explained how this can be considered leaking information.”
She said it was not as though Hyman took internal documents and gave them to the press. She also questioned the managing director’s claim of urgency to dismiss Hyman since Hyman gave the dossier to the Council of Ministers nearly two years ago. No one at the time responded to Hyman’s dossier until the new managing director took office. “It cannot be so that after working 28 years, you are just told in one meeting that you have to give up everything because you did your duty and reported concerns to the shareholder which is part of your responsibility.”
Heyliger-Marten alluded to a section of the Corporate Governance code that makes the Managing Board accountable to the shareholder for transparency. It states, “When applying transparency and integrity, it is important to prevent a conflict of interest between the various entities of the governance structure. In this framework, it is primarily the Managing Board and the Supervisory Board responsible for the management of the corporation respectively for conducting the supervision on the management. The Managing Board and the Supervisory Board shall be accountable for this towards the shareholders.”
Heyliger-Marten said if it is correct that Hyman took his concerns first to then PJIAH Managing Director Dexter Doncher and got permission to forward the same issues to the company’s shareholders, then Hyman acted with integrity in the interest of the airport.
“The airport is the gateway to our tourism economy, and we have had too many challenges and false starts where its recovery is concerned. Five years plus, and we are still dragging our feet with the recovery, and these poor decisions hinder our progress further.
“As a Member of Parliament, I expect clear action that protects the interest of our citizens whose sweat and sometimes even tears have contributed to PJIA being the envy of the Caribbean for many years. Hyman’s dismissal goes against every principle of good sound management, and I intend to get clarity on what happened at the airport starting with the appointment of the new managing director and the decision to dismiss Hyman,” she said.