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Economic Development to sack DCA for "gross incompetence"

Economic Development to sack DCA for

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Economic Development to sack DCA for "gross incompetence"


In an extraordinary move, Economic Development is seeking States approval to fire the Director of Civil Aviation for "gross incompetence", "misbehaving in office" and exposing the States to legal damages through a "lack of understanding" of his role.

Dominic Lazarus has been suspended since August while complaints about his conduct and competence were investigated.

In a damning report which has been released alongside a summary of the formal investigation, Economic Development said Mr Lazarus had "failed to understand some basic principles of his role as a regulator" and had been the subject of a claim against the States of Guernsey after he "acted in a potentially unlawful manner".

Mr Lazarus, who Express has so far been unable to reach for comment, took over the DCA position on 26 September 2018 having filled in as the Acting DCA after Gus Paterson left in July of that year. The then-Economic Development President Charles Parkinson said last night that it was "absurd that what is essentially a disciplinary matter has to be debated in the whole Assembly."

"Unfortunately, following Mr Lazarus' appointment, concerns started to be raised in a number of quarters about his competence and conduct," Economic Development said in a policy letter which will be laid before the States as an urgent proposition this week.

 airport_runway.JPG

Pictured: The DCA is the regulator for civil aviation in Guernsey. They regulate aerodromes, aircrafts and operators, air traffic control, and the validation of pilot and aircraft maintenance engineer licences. The DCA has extensive powers to ensure the safety of aircrafts and investigate incidents.

"The Committee provided additional support for Mr Lazarus in response to these concerns, but this additional support did not resolve matters; concerns continued to arise. The growing concerns culminated in a report being put to the Committee for Economic Development on 14 August 2020, as a consequence of which the Committee suspended Mr Lazarus from office in accordance with section 1(8) of the Law and asked that an investigation be conducted into his competence and conduct.

"As a consequence, and with regret, the Committee has exceptionally resolved to bring this policy letter before the States as it unanimously considers that, on the evidence before it, Mr Lazarus has misbehaved in office and has behaved in a way that is grossly incompetent."

On the balance of probabilities, the investigation concluded that Mr Lazarus:

  • failed to demonstrate his ability to work as a regulator and apply the law in a fair and evidence-based manner, and to seek or follow advice about technical or legal aspects of his role. 

  • failed to demonstrate he meets the skills and competencies required for some aspects of his role, in particular airworthiness and aviation security. 

  • failed to lead and manage the Office of the DCA to meet the required levels of service and customers’ expectations. 

  • undermined the standing of the Office of the DCA and exposed the States of Guernsey of increased risks of litigation and damage to its reputation through his actions.

The report concluded by saying: "The investigating officer has identified evidence, which shows, on the balance of probabilities, that there is a combination of repeated poor performance, failure to learn from previous mistakes and lack of competence as a regulator on the DCA’s part."

Inside States Chamber 

Pictured: The proposal to remove Mr Lazarus from office will be put before the States this week for approval as an urgent proposition.

According to the report, Mr Lazarus responded by saying that his service was under-resourced and that the Committee for Economic Development had not provided funding to operate this regulatory function to a good standard.

He said he always provided requested documentation to the correct standard for assessment and contested that he was regularly blamed him for delays when paperwork had not actually reached him.

In one instance, the investigation found that the States had been forced to settle a claim that was made against Mr Lazarus' conduct. 

"There is evidence that the DL failed to understand his legal powers and acted in a potentially unlawful manner, which was the subject of the settled claim," the report states. "There is no evidence that DL has learnt from the case and that would not act in a similar manner again."

DominicLazarus_1.jpg

Pictured: Mr Lazarus was once a Senior Captain at Cathay Pacific Airways in a career as a pilot that lasted over 30 years.

The proposition to formally remove Mr Lazarus from office will be put before the States on Wednesday.

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