NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Supreme Court of The Bahamas has ordered that the government pay $24,000 to a former teacher who was charged for rape and acquitted by a jury.
The funds are the balance of former teacher Leon Palmer’s salary for the period of his contract with the Ministry of Education.
Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles said: “This is an unfortunate case.
“By all accounts, Mr Palmer was an exceptionally hardworking and talented teacher.
“Had it not been for the allegation of rape, to which he was eventually found not guilty, he might have still been employed by the ministry.
“That [being] said, he was not interdicted by the ministry.
“He continued to work until the allegation of rape, when he was advised not to return to work.
“That was about five months into the unwritten two-year contract.”
The Supreme Court said it is a fact that the ministry hires teachers and sometimes takes months or even up to a year to formally execute their contractual appointment.
Palmer, a teacher at San Salvador High School, was charged with rape in January 2013.
In a letter dated March 1, 2013, then Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Donella Bodie advised Palmer not to return to work and that during the period of his interdiction, he would receive half of his annual salary of around $29,000.
However, the letter was not signed and not “dispatched to the proper authority”.
But Palmer continued to receive his full salary until October 2013.
The Ministry of Education informed Palmer that payment of his salary would be coded at the end of October 2013 although the criminal charge was still before the court.
In another letter addressed to Palmer, dated July 15, 2013, San Salvador High School Principal Virginia Romer thanked him for his contributions and said: “We look forward in anticipation to your soon return, taking your rightful place and continuing to make your contributions to this institution.”
Palmer was acquitted of rape by a jury in November 2015.
He was not redeployed within the education system nor was he reemployed.
He had also not been paid a salary after October 2013.
Palmer claimed he was not paid gratuity for the contract that ended in August 2012 and claimed breach of contract.
He also alleged that the government failed to redeploy him and refused to pay him, inclusive of increments applied during the period, which he said have been unlawfully withheld since October 2013.
Counsel for the defendant, named as the attorney general, conceded that Palmer was owed gratuity from September 2009 to August 2012, but denied that it breached the contract, alleging that from August 2012, Palmer was on a month-to-month contract and his discharge from duty did not result in a breach of his contract of employment.
The defendant also denied that Palmer was interdicted.
The court said Palmer was owed salary and emoluments up to August 2014, inclusive of 15 percent gratuity with interest at the rate of 6.25 percent per annum, bearing in mind that he was paid up to October.
The high court also ordered that the government pay its portion of National Insurance Board (NIB) payments up to August 25, 2014.