Published On: Wed, Jul 13th, 2022

Court supports dismissal of air traffic controller

PHILIPSBURG — René Guishard no longer has his job as air traffic controller at Princess Juliana International Airport, after the Court in First Instance ruled it justified that the SXM Airport fired him for urgent reasons.

Officers of the Detective Cooperation Team (RST) arrested the now 48-year old Guishard together with Chief Operating Officer Michel Hyman on October 22, 2021, on suspicions of scamming, abuse of function, forgery and intentional money laundering. The RST-investigation focused on fraud with cleaning and repair work at the airport after Hurricane Irma.

Guishard’s labor contract forbids performing paid work or unpaid work that takes a lot of time next to his job as air traffic controller. The contract also prohibits the establishment of a company that competes with the employer.

After his release from pre-trial detention, Guishard refused to provide a full explanation to his employer, saying that he had not committed any crime. In November he called on the nemo tenetur-principle (which states that you do not have to cooperate with criminal prosecution). He did however inform his employer about the suspicions the Prosecutor’s Office held against him.

Later Guishard admitted to the SXM Airport that he established a cleaning company called Total Keare on January 28 2016, that he had offered the services of this company to the airport, that he had provided requested documents and that his offer of providing services had been approved.

A forensic investigation showed that Total Keare had never been used by the airport before Hurricane Irma. Analysis of Total Keare-invoices (totaling 769,330.86 guilders or $429,794) showed that there were no documents drawn up with a request for work, let alone that they had been approved. The airport did not ask for bids from other companies and only the first invoice was found to be stamped and approved. Yet, all invoices have been paid, some of them even before the date of the invoice.

The airport asked the court to dissolve the labor contract without granting Guishard any compensation. Guishard asked the court for compensation to the tune of 284,340 guilders ($158,849).

The court ruled that the urgent reasons the airport wants to use as the basis for the dissolution, exist: the employee has grossly neglected the obligations from his labor contract. “The demand to explain everything goes too far, but the employee should have provided insight into the nature and the content of the suspicions against him. He should have mentioned that he is the sole director of Total Keare and he should have told his employer about the total of the invoices.”

All in all, the court agrees that there is insufficient confidence to let Guishard work as an air traffic controller at SXM Airport again. “The court considers the urgent reasons and with it the interest of the employer too serious compared to the personal interests of the employee.”


Related links:
Court rejects all demands but one from fired airport COO Hyman
Read the complete court verdict in full here (Dutch)