Manitoba civil servant demoted after travelling to Las Vegas to work as UFC referee

A Manitoba civil servant has been demoted for recently travelling to the United States to referee mixed martial arts matches for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

The disciplinary measure comes following a provincial directive in early February ordering political appointees not to travel for leisure purposes.

Jerin Valel was the referee in matches for the UFC in Las Vegas in late February and March, after the directive was put in place.

According to a cabinet order, Valel was temporarily promoted to Assistant Deputy Minister of Transformation in the Families Department in late February at an annual salary of $146,690.

In a statement, Blake Robert, the director of media relations for the Pallister Government, says the individual’s travel should not have occurred, following the nonessential travel order.

“Although the travel occurred within the recognized public health protocols of a professional sports bubble and did meet cross-border public health rules, it was contrary to the intent of the province’s travel directive,” writes Robert.

Robert says the appointee has confirmed he will not leave the province again until the directive is lifted, and he has been demoted.

“Appropriate action has been taken with the individual. The individual’s recent move to a senior management role was enacted through an order-in-council, which is being terminated,” Robert said in a statement. “As a result, he will be leaving this senior management role and returning to his previous position in government.”

Valel previously worked as a director of technology transformation for the Manitoba government.

Robert also says Premier Brian Pallister was not aware of the appointee’s travel, but would not say whether the civil servant had been given permission by someone else in government.

“As this is a human resources issue and in order to respect employee confidentiality, no further comment may be provided,”he wrote.

The directive came into place after it was discovered a number of government employees were out of province.

Wayne McWhirter, the chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, resigned after travelling to Arizona.

PC MLA James Teitsma was stripped of a committee appointment for travelling out west over the holidays.

Pallister’s former campaign manager and current Clerk of the Executive Council, David McLaughlin, was allowed to work remotely from Ottawa during the last two weeks of December.

CTV News has reached out to Jerin Valel for comment. 

-With files from The Canadian Press