Listen Live On Our Live Stream or Tune To Our Frequencies: 88.3 FM | 88.9 FM | 94.7 FM | 95.1 FM | 98.1 FM | 98.5 FM

Former Ombudsman sues GOB over salary cut

A year ago, former Ombudsman Lionel Arzu sued the Government of Belize because he said he was short-changed when his contract was not renewed. Since then, Arzu continued with his suit to recover what Arzu said he was owed for a breach of contract when his salary and vacation time were cut by the administration. Magistrate Manon Dennison ruled in favor of Arzu earlier this week. Representing the former Ombudsman was attorney, Orson “O.J.” Elrington. 

Orson “OJ” Elrington, Attorney-At-Law: “It is arguable, well, whether or not the cut to the public officers was legal. But it has and has always been my position that the cut to those persons who are contract officers was contrary to the law and one such person that had suffered from allowances was the former Ombudsman and he took a claim. He filed a claim against the Government of Belize and I believe it was the day before yesterday the court ruled that it was a breach of contract and therefore that he was entitled to damages and that the Government should, therefore, pay him what he was entitled to as per the contract.” 

Elrington believes that with this decision, the door is open for similar cases against the Government. 

Orson “OJ” Elrington, Attorney-At-Law: “I think that to the Government, in its defence, the Government’s defence in this matter, that they did not necessarily even challenge the breach. What their clam was that Mr. Arzu, the former Ombudsman, and other contract officers have acquiesced, basically agreed as to their conduct by not raising any objections to the, or quitting their jobs because of the allowance cut and the learned magistrate in his opinion said that based on the facts of this circumstance, now each circumstance brings its own unique facts. Let’s make that clear. But in this circumstance that it was not acquiescence and therefore that Mr. Arzu was entitled to the damages that he claimed, that we mounted on his behalf.”

Dale McDougall, Love FM Belize: From your perspective, why do you think that this particular case is so significant in context of the pain it caused?

Orson “OJ” Elrington, Attorney-At-Law: “Because you rightfully said it, Dale. He was not the only individual who suffered a cut of his allowances. I think it’s quite a significant number of persons and so the liability for Government might be significant because again, the question was that these contract officers entered into a binding fixed term contract, meaning that neither of the parties are to depart from any of the terms and the conditions and obviously remuneration including allowances is an integral part of a contract and therefore no one party could arbitrarily nor unilaterally change those terms and conditions without the other party accepting those changes and agreeing to those changes and so the Government’s decision to unilaterally cut those allowances was illegal, null and void.”

The total sum due to Arzu is just over ten thousand dollars and Government was ordered to pay to costs.