Director of elections resigns

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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DIRECTOR of Elections Orrette Fisher has resigned.

The Jamaica Observer understands that Fisher submitted a letter to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) yesterday, advising of his decision to relinquish the post, effective today.

The decision came as a surprise to the ECJ, however, as the commission and Fisher were awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court on the legality of his extended one-year tenure.

Opposition People's National Party (PNP) General Secretary Julian Robinson, who serves as a member of the ECJ, said in a release yesterday that the party “notes with grave concern the sudden resignation of Fisher, while awaiting the outcome of his court case.

”We are particularly concerned about the statements made by the director with respect to serious political interference in the operations of the EOJ (Electoral Office of Jamaica),” Robinson said.

Robinson's reference to political interference was apparently in response to a letter Fisher sent to staff advising them of his planned departure. However, it remained unclear last night what was being referred to as political interference.

Said Robinson: “The party will be vigilant and militant where this important institution is concern and will do everything that is necessary to protect the integrity of this important institution, that goes to the heart of our democratic process.

”The party, through its representatives on the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, will be resolute in safeguarding the country's rich legacy of electoral reform as well as ensuring that the future leadership of the EOJ is led by persons of impeccable integrity, who command the confidence of the society.

Fisher's seven-year appointment as director of elections ended in November 2015. It is understood that the ECJ contemplated advertising the position then, but the calling of a general election for February 2016 intervened, and he was granted a one-year extension instead. The tenure was extended for another year to accommodate the holding of the local government elections in November 2016.

With the two-year extended period coming to a close in November 2017, Fisher took the matter to the court. His attorney, Hugh Wildman, claimed that his reappointment could not be for less than a seven-year period. But Solicitor General Nicole Foster Pusey, who represented the ECJ in the case, insisted that as a servant of the commission, Fisher could be replaced by the ECJ if the commission was not satisfied with his performance.

During the court proceedings some staff members at the EOJ expressed concern about his possible replacement. However, the commission has insisted that the decision to advertise the post was not personal.

Fisher joined the EOJ in 1995 as assistant director of elections with overall responsibility for strategic direction and management of the organisation's support services. Shortly after he was asked to act as director of elections for 11 months before being appointed to the substantive post on November 1, 2008.

As director of elections, he was responsible for the overall management and security of the EOJ's information systems. Prior to joining the EOJ, he worked with Nestlé Jamaica and the Gleaner Company.

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