Trinidad: Fired tourism agency head had an uphill battle — source

Trinidad: Fired tourism agency head had an uphill battle — source
Camille Campbell
Camille Campbell

(TRINIDAD NEWSDAY) — Fired CEO of the Trinidad Tourism Ltd (TTL) Camille Campbell maintains she did her best for the company in the six months she was there, and her work had only just begun when she was axed.

Speaking with Sunday Newsday last week, a board member close to Campbell, supported that position saying: “In a short period of time and along with the support of her management team of six people, she feels that she did her best to steer the team in the right direction and establish and implement suitable and viable short term strategies and initiatives, given the many constraints. The journey had only just begun.”

The board member said Campbell is still deliberating her next move. “For now, she is taking some time to spend with her family as both TSTT and TTL demanded long working hours and work-related commitments, that have significantly divided her time” said the board member.

“From the beginning, Camille started to work on establishing what we needed, devising a plan to start up the company, outfitting the office space, acquiring the infrastructure, developing policies and procedures, meeting with various stakeholders to formulate the necessary relationships, interviewing for required staff, gearing up for the development of a strategic plan; all this while also attending to the core business.”

The source added that Campbell has not given up hope on working in the public sector, but believes that those hired to work in the tourism field have the necessary expertise to guide, develop and implement the right strategies to attract tourists. The board member said Campbell was fighting an uphill battle from the moment she was hired having limited staff, no strategic plan, no branding or advertising agency to work with, and no training available in the industry.

Campbell is also being supported by employees of TTL even as the board is now divided over her removal. Sunday Newsday obtained copies of messages sent to board members in support of Campbell following her July 1 dismissal. Campbell has signalled her intentions to fight the removal by hiring attorney Keith Scotland who issued a pre-action protocol letter to the board demanding an apology and the action to dismiss her rescinded.

One employee said they were thankful that Campbell shielded them from “all the madness you were facing alone”. A second message read that the employee cried after learning of the dismissal. The employee said Campbell was a “candle in the wind” and could not have won the battle, adding that the TTL will never be the same.

In the messages, another employee said: “I can’t bring myself to accept that you are gone and somehow I am thinking that that decision has to be rescinded by some other power and I hope it will, and sooner rather than later.”

Following his return from the Caricom summit in St Lucia on July 5, the Prime Minister said Government had to take ownership “of whatever is happening” at the board. That day, Campbell sent a pre-action protocol letter to chairman of the board, Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow.

Last Wednesday, Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell wrote to the board requesting information that led to the decision to terminate her contract. The request from Mitchell for further information, came days after Commissiong wrote to him detailing why the decision was taken given his instructions that there be a freeze on hiring and firing of staff. In his May 17 letter to the board, Mitchell requested that there be no action taken against any staff member. In her letter date July 2, one day after Campbell was dismissed, Commissiong-Chow said the board sought ongoing professional advice from industrial relations consultant and lawyer Lennox Marcelle. She added that the majority of the board on June 28 agreed to dismiss Campbell. She added that the request by Mitchell that the board not hire or fire anyone “was not in accordance with good industrial relations practice.”

Board sources said Marcelle was never retained by the TTL and there was no written advice from him to the board advising that Campbell be fired neither is there any documentation showing that Marcelle was paid for his alleged service. Mitchell’s request is for a copy of the assessment that Campbell underwent minutes before the June 28 board meeting and the advice received from Marcelle.

TTL board members told Sunday Newsday that Campbell was head-hunted by the board prior to her leaving state telecommunications company TSTT to join the board at a reduced pay package of close to $10,000. The June 28 board meeting that supposedly sealed her fate was short of four members with five of the 11 voting to have her dismissed and two disagreeing with the decision. According to a letter written by a member to the board after Campbell’s dismissal, Commissiong-Chow’s decision to fire Campbell days after the board meeting is also contrary to the board decision which was that the matter be sent for Mitchell to approve. Campbell was also appraised and given a failing grade despite not having the needed staff or promised training to effectively do her job.


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