Annmarie DeGazon

Some 32 of the 36 employees at the Department of Youth Affairs of the Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Youth Affairs and Sport have signed a petition calling for the immediate removal of their Youth Development Director Annmarie de Gazon.

Dated September 1, the document, which states it “is the second submission,” seeks to have the director removed on the grounds that she is not only unqualified to hold the position but is also unfit.

DeGazon, who held the position before, ended her first stint with the DYA in 2010. She was reappointed to the position in October 2019. However, the correspondence openly questions the validity of the appointment, as the qualifications required for a departmental head is a Master’s Degree or an MBA from a recognised institution.

According to the petition, “A Master’s degree was suddenly not required or made mandatory for the senior position of Youth Director when interviews were held in 2019, after a questionable interview process.”

Staff claim that the unit was without a director for a year before deGazon’s appointment and they were able to successfully execute 12 projects. Many of those projects were discontinued and replaced by projects which were outdated in some cases and dangerous.

The document detailed some of these projects, including the District Servicing Unit, where “field officers are forced to interact with youth in the community without being given adequate COVID-19 protective gear except for hand sanitiser.”

The staff also accused the director of using the department’s resources improperly.

The group also claims that although several attempts have been made to address staff concerns personally with the director, those attempts were met with hostility.

The situation reached boiling point after staff said the director openly called for the removal and replacement of several members of staff during a Tobago House of Assembly heads of department meeting. They said the Human Resource Department promised that a meeting would be held on August 3 but the meeting never materialised.

Tobago Today contacted PSA Officer – Tobago Kellon Wallace on the issue. Having not seen the petition personally, he cautioned that the employees must ensure that the issues raised contravene the Public Service Regulations under which the THA is governed.

“While it is alarming that so many employees hold this grievance, this position must be in a particular context before it is officially recorded,” Wallace said.

However, he said once the complaints are contextualised and documented, the employees should then give officials a specific period to respond or address these concerns.

“Once all those procedures are followed then the employees can proceed to take action.”

Efforts to reach secretary of that Division Jomo Pitt were unsuccessful.

However, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said, “This is an administrative matter and I will not comment on this, more than to say that there is a performance appraisal process which determines acceptability of employees’ performance.”

Tobago Today also reached out to deGazon for a response to the allegations.

She said, “No comment.”