The government’s treatment of Dominic Alford is nothing short of scary.
It confirms the likelihood of many stories about bullyboy tactics you hear about civil service managers.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding Alford’s strange and complicated tale, and the public doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for the guy.
But it should.
Alford was a central character in the government’s computer-misuse scandal.
You might remember it — the Public Service Commission publicly suggesting that employees had naughty pictures of barnyard sex on their computers.
In the end, directors rounded up 96 staffers and, without much discretion, marched them off to closed-door meetings with investigators.
Well, most of the offending “porn” wasn’t as interesting as the PSC hinted at.
Almost all was trivial stuff, but one was particularly memorable.
The picture was widely circulated by e-mail shortly after a Turkish contestant won an international beauty contest.
It showed a 25-pound bird, roasted to perfection except for the bikini lines between its wings.
Porn? We think not.
Anyway, Alford was rounded up in the computer-misuse probe for having objectionable stuff on his hard drive.
He was one of three people the government fired.
His actions, “established a fundamental and irreparable breach of trust in the employment relationship,” said a letter to Alford.
He hadn’t been in his job for long and was still on probation.
Nevertheless, Alford fought the firing.
His grievance was one of 150 filed by government employees following the probe.
However, the government settled through a binding arbitration process. The grievances weren’t heard.
And, because Alford had been on probation, he still lost his job.
So he appealed that decision by Vancouver-based adjudicator Vince Ready.
And this is where things get interesting.
Remember, Alford’s cyber indiscretions “established a fundamental and irreparable breach of trust in the employment relationship,” that resulted in his firing.
But he was a skilled guy.
So, despite that earlier “irreparable breach of trust” the government hired him back.
He got a new government contract, a second chance.
And, according to Alford, it came with a promise of full-time work if he did it well.
And Alford performed.
Department evaluations rated his work as “excellent.”
But, when his contract expired, the government didn’t renew it.
It had nothing to do with porn, poor performance or a lack of work.
His superiors let him go because he had continued his legal appeal to get his old job back.
“They’re basically telling me, ‘Forfeit your legal rights or we’re not going to continue your employment,’” said Alford in an interview months ago.
That theory was confirmed by an affidavit from Highways and Public Works human resources director Carolyn MacDonald that surfaced in Alford’s Supreme Court file.
She learned about Alford’s ongoing court case in the newspaper.
“I was shocked,” said MacDonald’s affidavit. “I expressed my dismay (to Public Works manager Pat Hogan). I told him that Mr. Alford could not expect to sue the employer and then be considered for future job offers.”
Fighting for your legal rights in court is supposed to be guaranteed right.
“Access to justice and due process is fundamental,” said Premier Dennis Fentie, under questioning by Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell, who took up Alford’s cause in the house.
“No government in any shape or form can preclude that access.”
“Well, court documents don’t back up that statement,” noted Mitchell, referencing MacDonald’s affidavit.
Alford’s court battle should have had no bearing on his continued employment with government.
Clearly it has.
Alford probably has a legitimate human rights complaint.
And government must now take steps to restore faith in the public’s fundamental right to fight for justice in the courts without fear of losing their jobs. (RM)