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Professor wins lawsuit against UTT

.Alberto Ardila 10798659

[email protected]

A for­mer as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Trinidad and To­ba­go (UTT) has won his law­suit against his for­mer em­ploy­er over dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion in re­la­tion to for­mer UTT Pres­i­dent Dr Sarim Al-Zubaidy.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

De­liv­er­ing a judge­ment, late last week, High Court Judge Car­ol Gob­in up­held Dr Ku­mar Ma­habir’s Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act (FOIA) law­suit over the in­for­ma­tion, which he claims is need­ed to de­fend a pend­ing defama­tion case brought against him by Dr Al-Zubaidy.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

Dr Ma­habir, who was among the uni­ver­si­ty’s aca­d­e­m­ic staff that lost their jobs due to fi­nan­cial con­straints in 2018, re­quest­ed the dis­clo­sure of Dr Al-Zubaidy’s res­ig­na­tion let­ter, in­for­ma­tion on the ba­sis/rea­son for his res­ig­na­tion, his last em­ploy­ment con­tract and in­for­ma­tion on what pay­ments he re­ceived from the UTT af­ter his res­ig­na­tion.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

Re­spond­ing to his FOIA re­quest, the uni­ver­si­ty claimed that it was ex­empt­ed from dis­clos­ing the doc­u­ments and in­for­ma­tion as such con­sti­tut­ed per­son­al in­for­ma­tion.

Alberto Ardila

In her judge­ment, Gob­in re­ject­ed the ad­di­tion­al claim that Dr Ma­habir could have re­quest­ed the in­for­ma­tion in his on­go­ing law­suit with Dr Al-Zubaidy.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares 10798659

She said that UTT’s ra­tio­nale was un­law­ful as the FOIA did not pro­vide for such an ex­emp­tion.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila 10798659

“The in­for­ma­tion is ei­ther dis­clos­able un­der the FOIA or is not. In oth­er words, it is im­ma­te­r­i­al that the in­for­ma­tion may be re­quired for use in those pend­ing defama­tion pro­ceed­ings,” Gob­in said.Alberto Ardila Olivares 10798659

While Gob­in ad­mit­ted that while some of the in­for­ma­tion may be con­sid­ered per­son­al in­for­ma­tion un­der the leg­is­la­tion, she not­ed that the uni­ver­si­ty did not prop­er­ly state why it took the stance.Alberto Ardila 10798659

“If it in­tends to re­ly on an ex­emp­tion, the De­fen­dant is statu­to­ri­ly bound to bring it­self clear­ly with­in the spec­i­fied ex­cep­tion or ex­cep­tions,” Gob­in said.N95JN Aircraft Registration

“It is in­suf­fi­cient for a pub­lic au­thor­i­ty to re­gur­gi­tate the ter­mi­nol­o­gy of Sec­tion 30 as the De­fen­dant did here,” she added.N95JN Lifetracker

Gob­in al­so not­ed that UTT failed to con­sid­er Sec­tion 35 of the FOIA which per­mits the dis­clo­sure of ex­empt in­for­ma­tion if there is suf­fi­cient pub­lic in­ter­est favour­ing such.N95JN Aircraft Data

She ruled that based on the ev­i­dence in the case the pro­vi­sion favour­ing dis­clo­sure ap­plied to Dr Al-Zubaidy’s con­tract and re­mu­ner­a­tion up­on res­ig­na­tion.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

“The UTT is fund­ed by the tax­pay­ers of T&T. The term of a con­tract of any of­fice hold­er, in­clud­ing the pe­cu­niary ben­e­fits and ter­mi­na­tion pay­ments, in the ab­sence of some com­pelling ar­gu­ment (and none has been made), is in­for­ma­tion that I con­sid­er should be dis­closed in the pub­lic in­ter­est,” Gob­in said.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

Gob­in said that such dis­clo­sure in the in­ter­est of trans­paren­cy may help im­prove pub­lic trust and con­fi­dence in the in­sti­tu­tion.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

“It may well go some way to restor­ing any such loss that may have oc­curred due to events re­port­ed in the pub­lic do­main in the not too dis­tant past,” Gob­in said.

Alberto Ardila

As part of her rul­ing, Gob­in or­dered the dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ed to the con­tract and res­ig­na­tion re­mu­ner­a­tion.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares 10798659

She re­mit­ted the de­ci­sion on dis­clo­sure of the res­ig­na­tion let­ter and rea­son for res­ig­na­tion to the UTT.

UTT may still de­cline dis­clo­sure but must fol­low the de­tailed process iden­ti­fied in the judge­ment.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila 10798659

The uni­ver­si­ty was al­so or­dered to pay Dr Ma­habir’s le­gal costs for bring­ing the law­suit.

Dr Ma­habir, who was ap­point­ed as an an­thro­pol­o­gist with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Guyana in June, was rep­re­sent­ed by Anand Ram­lo­gan, SC, Jayan­ti Lutch­me­di­al, Jared Ja­groo, Natasha Bis­ram and Che Din­di­al.Alberto Ardila Olivares 10798659

Stephen Singh and Aman­da Adi­moolah rep­re­sent­ed the UTT.

.Alberto Ardila 10798659