Regional

'I lost everything'

Mother of 2 claims unfair dismissal from job, believes court conviction was wrong

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 15, 2017

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A St Thomas woman is claiming that she has been robbed of her pension and years of service gratuity after being “unfairly dismissed” from her job as deputy postmaster at Morant Bay Post Office in the parish.Saraline Gordon, 45, of Winchester, contacted the Jamaica Observer North & East recently, stating that a “wrongful” conviction by the court resulted in her losing her job in 2012. She has not been able to get a job since.

The woman told North & East that she had taken over custody of a teenager when his father, who happened to be her godfather, died. She said the added responsibility caused her to apply for “orphan benefit” in 2011, which was granted in the sum of $8,400 fortnightly.

Gordon claimed that the money was being used to provide for the teen, but said that things changed after she proposed opening a bank account for him.

She said the teen was told that the portion of the money that was not being used would be put into the account for future use by him. That, however, did not work because the teen was not in possession of a national identification card which was required to open the account. Gordon said, as a result, she decided to keep the money, despite being asked for it by the teen who, at the time, was 16 years old.

The woman told North & East that she was later reported to the police by the teen for “withholding money” that did not belong to her. She said she was arrested and charged for fraudulent conversion.

“This is somebody who my family cared for. We did his laundry, made sure he got something to eat and went to school, and that he was OK,” she said, noting that his mother had also died.

Gordon said she went to court with the money (approximately $200,000) against legal advice because she believed she had nothing to hide.

“I was a public sector worker and I knew that I was not supposed to be involved in any court business, so I took the money because I just thought that everything would be over. When I went I pleaded not guilty.

“The judge, in turn, asked me why am I not pleading guilty; what am I waiting on to give the man his money. It was the first I was having problem like this, so I didn't know what to do and I hear people say the lawyer will speak for you, but the lawyer wasn't there. So I never answered the judge because I didn't want to get myself in any problems,” she explained.

She said she informed the judge who her attorney was, but was told 'mi never ask you that' by the judge. She said that when her attorney arrived she was advised to plead guilty because she had shown up with the money in his absence and presented it, which suggested that she was.

She was given a two-year suspended sentence and 340 hours of community service. The case was heard in camera.

The woman said she continued working at the post office for a year before she was dismissed. She was employed there for 21 years.

“I was at work on the 12th of April 2012 when I got a letter from head office stating that I was being dismissed from the postal service. They didn't call me, have any meeting with me, or heard my side of the story. I don't get anything because I was being dismissed.

“I lost everything. I lost my years of service. I lost my pension,” she said.

The letter, which was shown to North & East, read, in part: “I'm directed to inform you that the governor general has given the approval for you to be dismissed from the public service consequent on you being charged with 10 counts of fraudulent conversion, resulting in you being sentenced…”

Gordon admitted to “making a mistake” for not handing over the money to the teen when he asked for it, but said she did not deserve to be dismissed or convicted.

“I lost my job and I have two daughters, one 21 and the last one 13. I am not working; I still can't get a job. It is difficult. My daughter wants to go to college and I can't help. I can't do what I am supposed to do as a mother. That hurts me,” she said.

North & East contacted the Post and Telecommunications Department and was directed to call Ms Yetman. Efforts to contact her and the postmaster general have been futile.

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