Liberia: US$1.5M Damages Suit Hangs over LRA's Deputy Commissioner

… For allegedly publishing the Assistant Commissioner for Real Estate Tax  suspension letter on social media

James Jaber, the suspended Assistant Commissioner for the Liberia Revenue Authority Real Estate Tax, is considering suing their boss, Samuel Bennett, for allegedly publishing his suspension.

Jaber's lawyer, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi had warned Bennett, who is the tax authority's Deputy Commissioner General for Administration, to remove the suspension letter, which he published via WhatsApp, within seven days or face a US$1.5 million damages lawsuit.

According to Massaquoi, the alleged action of  Bennett had caused significant embarrassment for his “client” as the letter went “viral.”

The letter, which Bennett had issued on November 17, cites the issue of gross insubordination on the part of the Jaber “during a meeting” as one of the reasons for the suspension. It also warned of further disciplinary action, including dismissal, for any recurrence of such behavior. 

“Your actions were displayed in the presence of both the Technical Focus Point of the DCGAA and the Assistant Commissioner of Human Resources during a meeting to address a complaint against you, by supervisor Victor Seah,” the suspension letter indicated. “Please take serious note that any recurrence of such an act or similar misconduct will result in further disciplinary action up to and including dismissal,” it adds.

Massaquoi, however, disagreed, arguing that Bennett’s communication implicated his client “in misconduct without sufficient proof.” 

“Your failure to retract and to give equal prominence to said retraction in accordance with my client’s demands will leave me no remedy but to institute the appropriate legal action against you,” Massaquoi said in a letter to Bennett’s office, dated November 14.

Massaquoi added that the publication of the suspension “exposed Jaber to public ridicule nationally and internationally, potentially causing economic hardship and emotional distress.”

Massaquoi also claims that the communication “intentionally intimidated and humiliated Jaber,” as it contained strong and abusive words contrary to the professional and ethical standards of the tax authority. 

The outcome of this potential lawsuit remains to be seen, as it depends on Bennett’s response and actions.