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Brunton files motion to get back job

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Ian Brunton

Captain Ian Brunton, who was fired as CEO of Caribbean Airlines last week, has started legal action to get back his job. His attorneys gave the board of directors of CAL up to 10 am yesterday to have the decision to fire Captain Brunton “recanted with immediate effect as being an improper and unlawful exercise of power, otherwise, he will pursue all available options simultaneously.” Up to late yesterday, there was no response from the airline to that ultimatum.In the November 28 letter, which was addressed to CAL’s corporate secretary, Nerine Small, Seenath Jairam SC wrote: “We share the reported concerns of the line minister that an apparently unilateral decision to terminate our client’s services was undertaken.”

He pointed out that any unilateral decision to terminate Captain Brunton’s service would be unlawful on settled company law principles, was “a flagrant act of corporate misconduct” and was a breach of “well established principles of mutual trust and confidence.”Jairam, who detailed Brunton’s long and distinguished career in aviation, added: “In the face of considerable national scrutiny our client has overseen a dramatic and commendable turnaround of operations at the airline with the result that the shareholders’ equity has increased from US$110 million from the date of Captain Brunton’s appointment to US164 million as at the present date.

“This increase of 49 per cent during a global financial downturn stands in stark contrast to the experience of most other airline operators and is a testament to the conspicuous ability and contribution of our client.” Jairam said during his tenure as CEO, Captain Brunton had received no criticisms or complaints about his performance from the board or line ministers, so it was “with astonishment and disappointment” that he received a letter from CAL chairman George Nicholas III last Friday purporting to dismiss him. Jairam added: “Our client’s instructions are that at the last meeting of the newly-appointed board, held on November 15, 2010, at which our client was present, no issue was raised at all as to his performance as CEO.

“In fact, from the commencement of his duties as CEO and even up to the time of writing, our client has never been given a letter of concern, nor has anyone raised any issues concerning his performance, which as far as our instructions are concerned, has been nothing but excellent.” Jairam said he was advised no further meeting of the board was convened which he said was consistent with concerns about “the unilateral nature of the purported dismissal.”He said media attention given to the matter had caused “considerable professional embarrassment” to Captain Brunton, who has so far declined comment on the issue.

The attorney expressed the view that Captain Brunton had become “an unwitting casualty” of a disagreement between Nicholas and the line minister, Jack Warner, over the pending aircraft acquisition from ATR with Mr Nicholas having a preference for a competing supplier, Bombardier. Captain Brunton, who was appointed CEO of CAL on October 15, 2009, started his aviation career some 48 years ago in the British Royal Air Force. He was the first chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority and has held senior positions in both BWIA and Caribbean Airlines.

He has been the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Caribbean Airlines since the airline's inception in January 2007. He is a qualified attorney-at-law, holds Bachelor and Master of Laws degrees from the University of London and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.He is a former board director of BWIA and a former chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots’ Association.


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