By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DANIELLE Gibson and Holly Barrett were fired as assistant managers of the North Eleuthera and Governor’s Harbour airports Tuesday, months after they warned Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis and former Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin that their jobs were under threat, allegedly because of their political leanings.
In their time as senior airport officials, neither woman ever received a verbal or written warning nor were they subjected to disciplinary action, they said. Both served as the top official at their respective airports with no manager ranked above them. As such, they were responsible for all airport operations, from managing the fire department to managing security and dealing with air traffic control.
Their only crime, they said yesterday, appears to have been their unquestioned support of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
Since Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis vowed victimisation would not occur on his watch, both women said their experience proves the hollowness of his pledge.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar nor Airport Authority officials could be reached yesterday for a response to the women’s allegations, claims which were first expressed by Mrs Hanna Martin in the House of Assembly Wednesday. Her remarks were stricken from the record after House Speaker Halson Moultrie determined she could not prove her claims.
The women’s stories and background are dissimilar in some key ways. Ms Gibson was appointed assistant manager of the airport in North Eleuthera in 2014 and said her contract was renewed for three more years in November 2016. She said she has a bachelor’s degree from Oakwood University in biology and a minor in chemistry. Prior to her appointment at the airport, she spent nine years as a health inspector at the Department of Environmental Health before becoming director of government relations and outreach at Cape Eleuthera Island School.
On the other hand, Ms Barrett applied for her job in 2015 and was appointed assistant manager of the Governor’s Harbour airport March last year. She said she does not have a college degree, adding she previously worked for five years in the human resources office and as an administrative assistant at Holland America Line. Her training for “handling hazardous cargo, aerodrome safety management systems and responding to unlawful interference,” among others, were all obtained on-the-job, she said.
The assistant manager positions were not publicly advertised to potential applicants, Ms Hanna Martin confirmed yesterday. Ms Gibson and Ms Barrett were both “identified” for the jobs, she said.
In a “four minute” meeting between her and several officials on Tuesday, including ex-officio Airport Authority Director Milo Butler III, Ms Gibson was handed a letter. It read: “I am to advise that the Airport Authority will be ending your term of employment as assistant airport manager effective immediately. Please consider today your last day of work.
“Additionally, you are required to surrender to the director of security, or her designate your Airport Authority employee identification badge, the keys and other items. We would like to thank you for your contribution to the Airport Authority and wish you all the best for the future.”
Ms Barrett didn’t ask for an explanation for her firing. “I felt I deserved the respect to be told why without having to ask,” she said.
Neither woman was surprised by their firing. Both said rumours swirled for months that top Free National Movement (FNM) officials on the island wanted them gone. The women say they are vocal and longstanding PLP supporters. In fact, Ms Gibson recently became a national vice chairman in the party.
“I believe it was my political preference that cost me,” she said.
She said she is not interested in returning to the Airport Authority, adding: “I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted.”
However, she is considering legal action against the government.
Without a job lined up, hardship is a concern for both women and their multiple children. They say jobs are hard to find in their respective communities. Ms Gibson said both women received severance pay, but she claimed her contract was not fully paid out.
In a statement to the press yesterday, PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell said their termination was “nothing more than a naked exercise of political power for no good reason against people who were perceived to be supporters of the PLP.”