A public official surrounded by controversy …NOT SO FAST, ARNOLD!

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With numerous allegations swirling around the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL), comes news that its chairman, Arnold Piggot, has resigned.

Piggott sent a resignation letter to Minister of Education, Anthony Garcia, on Friday citing family commitments as the reason for quitting with immediate effect. Piggott also indicated he wished to protect his reputation.

Well Arnold, not so fast as you and your fellow board members have to publicly respond to allegations in the public domain about the tenure of your Board over the past 16 months. But then, Piggott is not a stranger to controversy.

In his letter, Piggott made no reference to issues that have been in the public domain recently in which questions have arisen over contracts handed out recently by the EFCL. Piggott explained why he accepted the EFCL chairmanship which he said was on the invitation of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, almost two years ago. It was in the spirit of national service that he accepted.

Sources indicated however, that it was the Prime Minister himself who asked Piggott to resign. Piggott praised the EFCL board saying he was happy to have had the privilege to collaborate and work closely with a diligent, dedicated and professional team going through many challenges including reputational risks.

Recent reports alleged irregularities at EFCL surrounding the award of certain contracts. Piggott has publicly distanced himself from these allegations. The Company’s IT Manager and ten other contract employees were also sent home recently. Piggott’s letter which was copied to Rowley and Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert.

The letter stated in part,”On this, my third effort dating back to November 2016 to demit this office, my resolve and commitment remain strong for this PNM Dr Rowley- led administration. Having contributed significantly over a few decades to support and strengthen the PNM administrations, I step away from this office now in furtherance of the protection of my reputation and family name and to ensure no platform is provided for those who may wish to slow the movement of this great party that is the PNM.”

The recent questions surrounding its operations were also raised in Parliament on Wednesday by former Minister of Education prompting comments from Imbert and Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, both of whom revealed that investigations had been launched into alleged corruption at EFCL.

DRUNK DRIVING IN CANADA

In March 2005, Piggott was pulled over by police for suspected drunk driving on a major roadway in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

Piggott, who was then Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commissioner to Canada, was charged with driving impaired and refusing to provide a breath sample, according to the published report.

Even though his diplomatic immunity prevented him from being prosecuted to the fullest extent of Canadian law, Piggott’s driver’s licence was suspended for one year, a sanction to which the diplomat agreed.

Then Prime Minister, Patrick Manning was concerned about this matter. Piggott was eventually recalled and made Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Manning Government.

AWARDED DAMAGES FOR DISMISSAL

In 2004, Piggott was awarded $600,000 in damages and interests for wrongful dismissal from First Citizens Bank (FCB) in 1999.

Arbitrator PLU Cross, in a ten-page judgment, ordered that Piggott be awarded $100,000 in general damages, $418,080 representing two years’ salary as general damages; car allowance for a two-year period, and $68,814, being five percent interest over a period of two years.

According to Cross, the evidence was so overwhelming that this was a clear case of wrongful dismissal. He said Piggott was entitled to reasonable notice if his services were to be terminated. He said the bank was liable in damages and special damages for such wrongful dismissal.

Following his dismissal from the bank, Piggott was employed as a consultant in Barbados; served as Minister of Works and Transport in the PNM Government from December 2002 to October 2003; and became TT’s High Commissioner to Canada based in Ottawa.

By letter dated September 29, 1999, Piggott’s employment was terminated with immediate effect. He commenced an action in the High Court against FCB claiming damages and compensation for wrongful dismissal.

By an arbitration agreement between the parties, Cross was appointed arbitrator to determine liability and compensation, if any. The parties agreed that the legal proceedings in the High Court should be immediately discontinued on the delivery of Cross’ judgment. Each party agreed to pay its own costs of the arbitration.

Piggott was the Corporate Manager — Electronic Banking at FCB with responsibility for credit cards. Piggott’s problems started when it was alleged that he failed to act decisively on the arrears of a credit card account of an employee at FCB. It was alleged that the employee’s arrears remained in limbo for nearly a year. In July 1999, Brian Nicholson, Senior Corporate Manager — Retail Banking, wrote to Piggott and asked why he did not report the employee’s delinquency. Piggott said he had spoken to the employee and was given certain assurances by him, and he also took the view that the bank was not at risk and that the debt was recoverable.

On August 24, 1999, Piggott was charged with three irregularities. Piggott replied to the charges in writing, but he was summoned to a disciplinary inquiry on September 9, 1999. The disciplinary committee recommended that Piggott be issued a warning letter and that his performance be reviewed at the end of six months. But after considering the reports of the committee, the Board of Directors of the bank dismissed Piggott.

Cross found that Piggott was employed in the bank for nearly 25 years without any evidence of wrongdoing, irresponsibility or dereliction of duty. Cross also noticed that just two months before his dismissal, Piggott was given a new salary of $17,420 a month and a bonus payment of $25,560 for his appreciation of work.

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ARNOLD PIGGOTT AND PATRICK MANNING

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