Gary taking Bliss to court; claims he was illegally removed from running for top cop in 2021

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Gary taking Bliss to court; claims he was illegally removed from running for top cop in 2021

Former police commissioner Gary Griffith is seeking damages for being removed from the running for top cop in 2021 and has filed legal action against former Police Service Commission (PolSC) chairman, Bliss Seepersad.

Through his senior counsel Larry Lalla, Griffith has stated that he was illegally removed from the Merit List for the position.

According to an Express report, Griffith will be claiming that this was also as a result of interference by persons, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, causing him to suffer loss of income and benefits, as well as damage to his professional reputation.

Griffith’s statement of claim, dated December 21, 2023 also said that he will be referring to reports and statements on the matter from former president Paula-Mae Weekes.

The 246-page claim contends that Section 123(2) of the Constitution, under which the PolSC operates, “gave no power, authority, or discretion to the PolSC, the chairman, the President, the Prime Minister or anyone else to withdraw the order of merit list once same was submitted to the President and at trial the Claimant will maintain that once the Order of Merit List was submitted to the President, the President’s singular and only function, duty and responsibility was to act in accordance with Section 123(4) to issue a Notification in respect of each person nominated for onward transmission to the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago”.

Griffith’s claim stated that Section 123(3) “at all material times, authorised and empowered the PolSC to nominate persons for appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police”.

The claim stated that Griffith, who was appointed as CoP on August 6, 2018, was “ranked as being a more popular public figure than even the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Christopher Rowley”, as a result of the public’s confidence in him during his tenure.

The court action also states that “the country witnessed notable decreases in violent crime and further during the Claimant’s tenure as Commissioner of Police, the public’s perception of and trust in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service saw marked improvements”.

The claim states that Griffith “filed an application for the post, was extensively interviewed and screened by the PolSC (chaired by Bliss) and was successful in being placed at the top of the PolSC’s August 2021 Order of Merit List for the office of Commissioner of Police”.

Following the completion of his initial term as CoP, as well as the “successes he was able to achieve in that office and the public perception of his performance”, Griffith claimed that the PolSC and the Government were “so impressed” that “the Government amended the law to allow him to remain in the office of Commissioner of Police as the Acting Commissioner of Police pending the appointment process in relation to the August 2021 Order of Merit List”.

The claim maintains that in so withdrawing the Merit List, Seepersad “knowingly acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally or so acted with reckless disregard for the limits on her power and the effect and harm that her actions would have on the professional reputation and interest of the Claimant”.

Griffith is contending that Seepersad’s “unilateral and unlawful suspension of the Claimant from the Office of Police Commissioner resulted in grave and extensive harm” to him.

Griffith is seeking compensation from the loss of the CoP’s remuneration package, as he was the “top candidate” for the position.

The CoP’s contract included a monthly salary of $31,080, and monthly benefits including a transport allowance of $3,900, duty allowance of $3,110 and a telecommunication facility, special personal allowance of $8,920.