(CMR) Jennifer Ahearn, Chief Officer & Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health & Culture has effectively been removed from the position effective August 1, 2019 according to exclusive Cayman Marl Road sources.
In what comes as a shocking development to many; the Minister, Honourable Dwayne Seymour, has requested her removal from his ministry via a letter to the Governor’s Office. Seymour is the Minister of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing. A well placed political source noted that they were aware about two weeks ago that caucus had made the decision to have her removed as chief officer.
CMR sources also indicate that placing Ahearn into a comparable position within government is proving difficult as no one wants to work with her. Apparently, one suggestion was to move her over to the ICTA/OfReg agency. However, they are not keen on taking her on either. Appreciating her predicament, Ahearn has offered to accept a CI$500,000 payout in order to gracefully leave the civil service entirely. However, our sources have further confirmed that offer was immediately rebuked by Cabinet. One source noted:”The Honourable Premier said absolutely not! We will not pay her one red cent.”
A second source confirm that all Cabinet members were in agreement that a payout was not suitable in the circumstances.
Another high ranking source indicated they found it hard to believe such an offer of payment would have been made. They also questioned the version that had her moving to the ICTA/OfReg. For now it appears all efforts will be made to place her elsewhere.
Ahearn has been the subject of several high profile complaints with her competency and suitability as a chief officer being questioned over the years. ; including last summer when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused Ahearn of providing them with false information. PAC chair Ezzard Miller made the complaint at the time that Ahearn purposely mislead them about changed made to memberships of licensing bodies such as the Medical and Dental Council. He called for disciplinary action to be taken against her. However, Deputy Governor and head of the civil service, Franz Manderson, defended her and said that she had not intentionally mislead PAC.
There was also the famous December 2014 blowout incident with previous minister, Osbourne Bodden. During a dispute Bodden was said to have called her driftwood and yelled so loudly that others on the entire government floor could hear him. It was alleged that dozens of civil servants clearly heard Mr. Bodden shouting at Ms. Ahearn statements including,
“You aren’t even Caymanian, you are like a piece of f&%king driftwood,” and “You know that I can make your life a living hell,” in a tirade that resulted in a security guard being called to the scene. He later apologized for the incident and he was replaced as her minister by then Premier Alden McLaughlin.
There were also questions about Ahearn’s competency during the whole CarePay debacle that saw former HSA board chair, Canover Watson jailed. She testified during his criminal case but never faced any consequences for what many considered to be an extreme lack of accountability and oversight by the ministry.
Despite that some senior civil servants have shared that they always found Ahearn to be competent and quite enjoyed working with her and perhaps she was just a product of political games. It was often said that she had the luck of the Irish and was well protected from any perceived repercussions from any criticisms.
Ahearn has been a long serving civil servant after joining the Department of Planning back in 1997 as a Planning Officer. She has served as a chief officer for over 10 years. She was formerly Assistant Director at the Mosquito Research & Control Unit.