A 2016 police selection process for the promotion of superintendents to the post of assistant commissioner was vitiated, and a fresh call ought to be issued, the ombudsman has ruled.

Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud said that the man behind the decision to favour certain individuals over others was former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

He led “a parody of a selection process” and chose people promoted to the new grade on the basis of personal trust rather than according to the manual on which such a process should be based. 

The ombudsman was ruling in a case by Superintendent Raymond D’Anastas, who cried foul over the fact that he had been discarded for promotion despite his four decades of service and an impeccable track record.

The ombudsman noted it was “very worrying” that one of the people who was promoted to the role, Mario Tonna, had brought the police force into disrepute and faced a series of disciplinary proceedings as well as a criminal case in which he was found guilty.

He added that not only was Tonna allowed to apply for the promotion when he should have been automatically disqualified but was promoted to superintendent and then to assistant commissioner in a span of just one year.

Tonna resigned in January 2018 after it was revealed that his partner had filed a report over domestic abuse.

It was alleged that he head-butted her during a late-night argument in December 2017.

Tonna at the time led the police traffic section, which ran into trouble over allegations related to fraud, misappropriation and money laundering.

'Because I trust them'

“Had the selection process been done properly, excluding certain people who were not the right ones for the job, maybe the complainant would have stood a chance of being chosen,” the ombudsman said in his decision.

Mifsud added his investigation revealed that the selection process had started well before it actually did, with Cutajar defending his decisions to promote some and not others “because I trust them”.

D’Anastas had applied for the promotion in September 2016.

The selection board, chaired by Cutajar with former assistant commissioner Josie Brincat and Joseph Mangani as members, in December decided to pass 14 applicants and fail another seven, including D’Anastas.

D’Anastas complained about the process and the fact his track record and flawless service over a span of more than 40 years had been disregarded.

Through his lawyer, David Bonello, the superintendent also complained that his receipt of the Crime Reduction Shield for having successfully led to a reduction in the crime rate in the St Julian’s district, which he leads, was not taken into consideration.

The 40 years’ experience under his belt was not given enough weight, so much so that he only scored 12 out of 20 points for experience.

The Public Service Commission had investigated his appeal from the selection process but had voted to stick to the original decision. 

In his considerations, the ombudsman said that, while D’Anastas did not have the automatic right to qualify for a promotion, the least he could have been given was a fair chance.

Mifsud said the board failed to give a detailed explanation of why certain individuals were chosen while others were not. When asked if he had pressure from any official within the Officer of the Prime Minister, Cutajar denied this was the case, saying that no one interfered in the process.

The ombudsman said he found it difficult to understand how someone with such a long number of years of service had fared so badly in the process.

He even questioned the board members’ qualifications to judge D’Anastas on criteria such as personality, tact and emotional stability when they were not psychologists or psychiatrists. 

As he found that D’Anastas had suffered an injustice, the ombudsman queried why the selection board had “almost com-pletely” ignored the manual, saying this was done deliberately.

Mifsud recommended that Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà issue a fresh call for the post and ordered him to pay D’Anastas €15,000 as moral damages in default.

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