Published On: Mon, Sep 4th, 2023

GEBE has to reinstate Sharine Daniel as Head Internal Auditor, court rules

PHILIPSBURG — Utilities company GEBE has to admit Sharine Daniel to her work as Head Internal Auditor before September 6, the Court in First Instance ruled on Wednesday, August 30. The company had gone to court for permission to dissolve the labor contract with Daniel, but the court denied it and also denied Daniel’s financial counterclaim totaling 760,892 guilders ($425,079) as compensation for the dissolution of her contract, missing out on the appointment as the company’s Chief Executive Officer and for legal costs.

GEBE hired Daniel on June 16, 2013, on a permanent contract as its head internal auditor for a monthly salary of 15,100 guilders ($8,436). In May 2022 she was appointed as acting temporary manager, but in September of that year, the shareholder (Country St. Maarten) appointed Troy Washington as the company’s Special Representative and as Temporary Manager.

A week after Washington’s appointment, GEBE’s Chief Operating Officer at the time was suspended pending an investigation by SOAB into the cyber-attack that hit GEBE on March 16, 2022. A week after that, Washington asked Daniel to take a leave of absence for the duration of the SOAB -investigation. Daniel complied.

On March 17, 2023, GEBE informed Daniel about the results of this investigation, to which she reacted on March 31. At the same time, she requested to be admitted to her work again.

That did not happen, because in April 14, GEBE informed her about its intention to dissolve her labor contract. The company reproached her for violating GEBE’s internal audit charter, for holding the positions of head internal auditor and acting temporary manager at the same time, for taking away company property and because of its intention to outsource internal auditing.

While GEBE asked the court to dissolve the labor contract, Daniel hit back with a counterclaim. She demanded to be reinstated as head internal auditor and financial compensation to the tune of   just over $425,000.

The court was merciless in its assessment of GEBE’s behavior during the legal fight with Daniel, labeling its petition with hundreds of pages of productions as an “illegible and incomprehensible explanation of relevant facts.” As a matter of fact, the court ruling states, “GEBE brings everything to the table it can think of against Daniel since she started working for the company.”

The ruling also refers to a court decision of November 3, 2021, where the court ruled against the same arguments. “Repeating these criticisms supplemented with unstructured arguments and without sufficient legal interpretation is, according to the court, “a flawed and inappropriate way of litigating.”

The court notes that the SOAB -investigation does not support the accusation that Daniel is responsible for the effect of the cyber attack. Evidently incorrect is the accusation that Daniel held the positions of head internal auditor and acting temporary manager simultaneously. (This is because her contract as auditor was suspended after her appointment as acting temporary manager).

The court furthermore did not find evidence that Daniel had taken away company property.

The last argument for wanting to get rid of Daniel was GEBE’s intention to outsource the auditing function. Daniel pointed out correctly that the required decision by the supervisory board is missing, that there is no reorganization plan and that the company did not consult with its staff and the labor unions.

The court ruled that there is no reasonable ground for dissolving Daniel’s labor contract and that the argument of a disturbed employment relationship does not fly either because GEBE should have made an effort to improve the situation – and it never did.

The court denied the request to dissolve the labor contract and ordered GEBE to admit Daniel within seven days after the ruling to her workplace as head internal auditor. The court ruling can be executed immediately, also if GEBE appeals the decision.


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