Former Justice Minister Frederick Cherue’s confirmation to the Daily Observer Wednesday that he ordered the reinstatement of dismissed Liberian Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) official Sebastian Gibson has raised eyebrows and questions in the public, bordering on ethical indiscretion, given the rather eleventh hour unprecedented action as an official in transition.
The former Minister said his action to reinstate Gibson was based on findings from a Justice Ministry special investigative committee, which recommended that Gibson and four others be reinstated, with their full salaries and benefits as they were wrongfully dismissed.
Mr. Gibson and four others were dismissed by the Drug Enforcement Agency on September 1, 2015. According to the agency, Gibson and the four others had violated Part-1 Count 20.0 of its code of conduct. The affected officers were also charged with extortion from drug suspects, which is also in contravention of Chapter 15 of Section 15.51 of the penal law of Liberia, the agency said at the time.
Until his dismissal on September 1, 2015, by authorities of the agency, Gibson was the deputy chief of training, the Daily Observer learnt. Other officers who were dismissed along with Gibson included Prince Harris, chief of intelligence; Darius Davies, secretary to the Board of Internal Investigations and Professional Standards; Albert Hare, deputy chief investigator; and Eugene Quiah, chief of operations assigned in Bong County.
According to the drug agency, Gibson’s dismissal was in keeping with prescribed penalties for violations of the agency’s Duty Manual Category D, count/Dot-17 and page 45 of the agency’s code of conduct. In its letter of dismissal, the drug agency charged him with extortion and bribery.
“You intruded into the home of Madam Amelia Gaye of Johnson Street where you intimidated, harassed and took bribe in the amount of L$6,000 and extorted US$1,000 respectively under the pretense of protecting her from the LDEA’s arrest and prosecution for her alleged involvement in the sale of illegal drugs,” Gibson’s dismissal letter said at the time.
He and other affected officers were ordered to turn over all properties in their possessions to the head of the human resource department, and to act accordingly by reporting in three days to the authorities after they were disrobed.
Meanwhile , a joint security coordinator at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) yesterday confirmed that Sebastian A. Gibson, Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency’s (LDEA’s) newly-appointed Deputy Director for Administration, was reinstated on January 10, 2018, by then Justice Minister Frederick D. Cherue.
Farini B. Kamara said as head of the Justice Ministry’s investigative committee, he and his team conducted a comprehensive investigation and concluded the former administration reinstate Gibson and other affected agents with their salaries and other benefits because they did not see any evidence that warranted their dismissal.
However, until yesterday’s confirmation by former Justice Minister Cherue, the authenticity of his eleventh hour January 10, 2018 letter reinstating Gibson was considered suspect because, according to legal experts and insider DEA sources, Gibson’s dismissal some three years ago provided more than ample time to Minister Cherue to have corrected whatever missteps the drug agency may have committed in the handling of the case and not on the eve of his departure from office.
Moreover, according to the experts, there is no evidence that Gibson had availed himself of and exhausted established mechanisms and avenues to secure redress for wrongful dismissal, noting that the findings of an agency internal investigation could not just be arbitrarily impeached by the Minister in the twilight of his tenure as Justice Minister without reference to the Transitional Committee on which he was then serving as member.
Further, according to the experts, President Weah had at the time directed Human Resource directors at various government agencies to assume responsibility for the day to day running of various government entities until new heads had been named and confirmed.
Additionally, a Justice Ministry official speaking under condition of anonymity, said Cherue’s eleventh hour letter of reinstatement was analogous to and indistinguishable from an ethical breach since Cherue’s authority as Justice Minister had ended with the election of a new president whose victory was announced on December 29, 2018, and who had subsequently clothed human resource officers with the authority to run the affairs of the various ministries and agencies of government pending the appointment of new heads.
The official said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had issued Executive Order No. 91–establishing the Joint Presidential Transition Team on December 26, 2017. Members of the Team were charged to establish mechanisms for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from one democratically elected president to another democratically elected president and not to run the day to day operations of the respective agencies.
The composition of the Joint Transitional Team then included – the Ministers of State for Presidential Affairs, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Development Planning, Internal Affairs, National Defense, Governor of the Central bank of Liberia, and the Director of the Executive Protection Service.
Other officers that were dismissed along with Gibson were Prince Harris, chief of intelligence; Darius Davies, secretary to the Board of Internal Investigations and Professional Standards; Albert Hare, deputy chief investigator; and Eugene Quiah, chief of operations assigned in Bong County.
In a related development, the Daily Observer’s investigation has established that the LDEA newly-nominated administration has reportedly recalled the operations’ officer, along with one Prince Harris, also dismissed in 2015 by the previous administration, for accepting bribes to facilitate the importation of illegal substances.