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Aviation Director facing allegations of "gross incompetence"

Aviation Director facing allegations of

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Aviation Director facing allegations of "gross incompetence"


The Director of Civil Aviation is facing a vote to remove him after being accused of "gross incompetence" and "misbehaving in office."

It's also been claimed Dominic Lazarus, who oversees Channel Islands aviation, exposed the States of Guernsey to legal damages through a "lack of understanding" of his role, and failed to adequately deal with the Jersey and Guernsey elements of his portfolio separately.

In an extraordinary move, Guernsey's Economic Development Committee is now seeking political approval to fire him.

Dominic Lazarus has been suspended since August while numerous complaints about his conduct and competence were investigated.

His suspension coincided with the recruitment of Jersey's former Airport Director Inez Bartolo as Deputy Director of Civil Aviation in August.

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Pictured: Jersey's former Airport Director was appointed as Deputy Director of Civil Aviation around the time Mr Lazarus was suspended.

Before taking up the post, she had acted as a 'Regulatory Adviser' to Ports of Jersey between June and August.

In a damning report, which has been released alongside a summary of the formal investigation, Economic Development said Mr Lazarus had "failed to understand some basic principles of his role as a regulator" and had been the subject of a "settled claim" against the States of Guernsey after he 'acted in a potentially unlawful manner".

Mr Lazarus, who Express has so far been unable to reach for comment, took over the DCA position on 26 September 2018, on the recommendation of the Committee for Economic Development, having filled in as the Acting Director of Civil Aviation since 9 July 2018.

"Unfortunately, following Mr Lazarus' appointment, concerns started to be raised in a number of quarters about his competence and conduct," Economic Development said in a policy letter which will be laid before Guernsey's States as an urgent proposition this week.

Airport Runway

Pictured: The DCA is the regulator for civil aviation in Jersey and Guernsey. 

"The Committee provided additional support for Mr Lazarus in response to these concerns, but this additional support did not resolve matters; concerns continued to arise. The growing concerns culminated in a report being put to the Committee for Economic Development on 14 August 2020, as a consequence of which the Committee suspended Mr Lazarus from office in accordance with section 1(8) of the Law and asked that an investigation be conducted into his competence and conduct.

"As a consequence, and with regret, the Committee has exceptionally resolved to bring this policy letter before the States as it unanimously considers that, on the evidence before it, Mr Lazarus has misbehaved in office and has behaved in a way that is grossly incompetent."

On the balance of probability, the investigation concluded that Mr Lazarus:

  • failed to demonstrate his ability to work as a regulator and apply the law in a fair and evidence-based manner, and to seek or follow advice about technical or legal aspects of his role;

  • failed to demonstrate he meets the skills and competencies required for some aspects of his role, in particular airworthiness and aviation security;

  • failed to lead and manage the Office of the DCA to meet the required levels of service and customers’ expectations;

  • and undermined the standing of the Office of the DCA and exposed the States of Guernsey of increased risks of litigation and damage to its reputation through his actions.

The report concluded by saying: "The investigating officer has identified evidence, which shows, on the balance of probabilities, that there is a combination of repeated poor performance, failure to learn from previous mistakes and lack of competence as a regulator on the DCA’s part."

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Pictured: The proposal to remove Mr Lazarus from office will be put before Guernsey's States Members this week for approval as an urgent proposition.

According to the report, Mr Lazarus responded by saying that his service was under-resourced and that the Committee for Economic Development had not provided funding to operate this regulatory function to a good standard.

He said he always provided requested documentation to the correct standard for assessment and contested that he was regularly blamed him for delays when paperwork had not actually reached him.

In one instance, the investigation found that the Guernsey's government had been forced to settle a claim that was made against Mr Lazarus' conduct. 

"There is evidence that the DL failed to understand his legal powers and acted in a potentially unlawful manner, which was the subject of the settled claim," the report states. "There is no evidence that DL has learnt from the case and that would not act in a similar manner again."

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Pictured: Mr Lazarus was once a Senior Captain at Cathay Pacific Airways in a career as a pilot that lasted over 30 years.

It follows news in June that Jersey's Airport Director Inez Bartolo had become a ‘Regulatory Adviser’ for Ports of Jersey.

Her LinkedIn now lists her as holding the role of Deputy Director of Civil Aviation since August 2020.

The proposition to formally remove Mr Lazarus from office will be put before Guernsey politicians for a vote on Wednesday.

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