SABA–Saba Electric Company (SEC) took its former Head of Distribution J.R. to court last month, seeking to legally terminate his contract with immediate effect on suspicion of forgery, fraud, and theft of company property.
SEC dismissed R with immediate effect in a letter on December 1, 2020. “This is because you have falsely favoured a company of your friend at the expense of SEC,” SEC said in the letter.
R., who had worked for SEC for 31 years, is suspected of having approved no fewer than six invoices from a local construction company that charged SEC for work it had not done. The work had actually been done by SEC’s own employees. The invoices had been created on R.’s work computer.
“You have (knowingly) made sure – by approving the aforementioned invoice and even several other invoices – that SEC paid [the construction company – Ed.] for work that was not done by this contractor,” it was stated in the letter.
R. was accused of buying materials for one of the construction company’s jobs with SEC money, even though the contractor had agreed to pay for the materials out of pocket. He was also suspected of giving a customer some SEC materials for free, despite the fact that the customer had to pay.
R. opposed the December 2020 letter, and, on January 28, requested that the court declare it null and void.
A court date was scheduled for March 26 but, in the meantime, SEC sent R. another termination letter. This one – dated March 18 – dismissed R. with immediate effect for allegedly stealing copper from SEC in 2014.
In addition to the civil proceedings, SEC has filed a criminal complaint against R. with the Kingdom Detectives.
In summary proceedings on March 26, SEC’s lawyer Sophie van Lint requested that the court declare R.’s employment contract legally terminated for urgent and compelling reasons.
R.’s lawyer Jason Rogers requested that the court declare the dismissals null and void and order the reinstatement of his client’s employment contract. In the event of a dismissal, Rogers requested that the court order SEC to pay his wages and benefits from December 1, 2020, until the day the contract is legally terminated, and pay termination compensation of US $168,878.
The court issued a provisional verdict in this case on April 13, which terminated R.’s employment contract as of April 24 and ordered SEC to pay compensation of $121,578.
However, the court said it could not determine the accuracy and validity of the allegations because summary proceedings are meant to be short concrete hearings with limited investigative capacity. The court thus referred the case to a so-called substantive hearing (in Dutch, “bodemprocedure”).
This means that the court’s April 13 verdict is valid until there is another ruling in a substantive hearing.
SEC and R. could also jointly decide not to carry the case further, which would make the court’s ruling binding. Both parties have until Friday, April 23, to withdraw their cases.
“The Court finds that the accusations made against the employee are all documented and substantiated. However, the employee disputes the substance of these allegations …
“The employee does acknowledge that his subordinates have dug trenches to lay underground cables and that a relatively small portion of the invoices of [the construction company] refer to this, but he says this has been a long-standing practice, dating back to the time he worked for utilities company GEBE in Saba. The employee’s defence that this is a continued practice, which has taken place for years, deserves further investigation. …
“For the other accusations, the employee has a story – including that SEC’s management was aware of what was going on and tolerated it – but in this hearing it cannot be investigated whether this story is correct and would thus offer sufficient counterweight to SEC’s accusations.
“In any event, the facts resulting from the employer’s investigations appear to be correct, but the employee’s defences cannot be examined properly by this Court. And then there is the question of the stolen copper. The employee disputes involvement in theft, but the Court cannot determine the accuracy of this accusation in these proceedings either,” said the Court in its provisional verdict.