Judy Manning defends lack of rulings in prior role
Attorney general didn’t complete any cases in 5 months of overseeing workers compensation appeals
Judy Manning, who was plucked from outside Newfoundland and Labrador's Tory caucus last month to take on the key jobs of attorney general and public safety minister, did not issue any decisions related to her previous provincial government appointment.
Manning was appointed as a review commissioner with the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division (WHSCRD) in April.
Commissioners oversee appeals from injured workers and employers, and issue rulings on their cases.
According to the provincial government, Manning was assigned 19 cases and held hearings for all of them, but did not file any decisions before her resignation.
Now, the family of one of those injured workers is complaining about delays in his case — an appeal for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle — saying they have had no contact from anyone about what will happen now.
But Manning is defending her role at the WHSCRD, saying commissioners routinely miss the legislated 60-day deadline for decisions.
'Various factors at play'
"It's not uncommon, because obviously there are various factors at play,” Manning said.
She says it’s not unusual for new commissioners to not do any hearings at all for three or four months while they are trained for the job. Manning was appointed on April 22, and says she did her first hearing on June 12.
And she brushes aside any suggestion that her track record as commissioner could look bad, given her current role.
"I'm entirely comfortable with how I've discharged my duties as a review commissioner and certainly to date I'm entirely comfortable with the energy and the enthusiasm that I've brought to this position,” she said.
“And I'm looking forward to continuing to execute in a similar manner."
I'm entirely comfortable with how I've discharged my duties as a review commissioner and certainly to date I'm entirely comfortable with the energy and the enthusiasm that I've brought to this position. And I'm looking forward to continuing to execute in a similar manner. - Justice and Public Safety Minister Judy Manning
Manning says she would not have remained in the part-time commissioner position for long even if a cabinet post had not come calling. She cites the low pay.
"I resigned on Sept. 25 and that was before, in fact, my offer to join cabinet had been confirmed,” Manning said.
“But I did resign certainly in the view of making myself available should that position arise. And also I was a private practice sole practitioner, and I don't apologize for one moment in saying that I had a profit-seeking motive at that time.”
She notes that commissioners get $750 per case, which includes prep time, overseeing the hearing, and making the decision.
“Often times that work is not undertaken by lawyers, and in the overall consideration of where my practice was going I didn't feel that it would be in my best interests from a profit-seeking perspective to continue on that front in any event,” Manning said.
She is receiving $6,400 for the work she did do on those 19 files — a pro-rated share of the $4,000 annual retainer, plus one-third of the per-case fees.
The government now says her cases will be reassigned to the chief review commissioner and given priority status.
Those affected will be notified and given options on how they want to proceed with their cases — new hearings, or a decision by the chief commissioner from a review of existing records.
‘Months before we even get an answer’
But one injured worker says he remains in the dark, still waiting for answers.
"This delay now could take another six months before we even get an answer of whether we will receive the van or not,” Pat Dunphy told CBC Investigates.
Dunphy suffered a spinal injury in a workplace accident nearly 20 years ago.
He has been approved to get his house fixed, to make it accessible — a process that he says is still tied up in red tape.
Dunphy also has a separate battle going with workers compensation, to get a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Manning heard his appeal on that matter July 8, according to Dunphy.
Months passed, with no news.
"We have received no notification from Judy Manning's office, or the workplace review division,” Pat’s wife Kim Dunphy said.
“Everything as far as we're concerned is in limbo."
Manning was actually the second commissioner to hear Dunphy’s appeal for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. The first commissioner bounced it back to workers compensation last year, before his case returned for a second hearing.
The continual delays mean her husband is “housebound,” according to Kim Dunphy.
"Some of this makes a difference between life and death for him,” she said.
“And not having the wheelchair-accessible vehicle that was prescribed or having to wait longer — every day that passes, every minute that passes, could be the end all. And that frightens us."
‘Time frame difficult to meet’
While the law calls for a maximum of 60 days from application to decision, government officials say “this time frame has been difficult to meet.”
They blame scheduling delays and co-ordinating hearings.
Decisions by review commissioners are posted online, at the WHSCRD website.
As of last week, Manning had none listed under her name.
After CBC Investigates started asking questions, her webpage disappeared from the site, as did any reference to Manning as commissioner.
According to that website, there were 138 decisions rendered by six other commissioners between Jan. 1 and Aug. 28, the most recent date posted.
No replacement for Manning has yet been named.
The province says there is currently a backlog of 150 cases in the system, although it notes that number is an improvement from the past.