MMA referee Jerin Valel got in some trouble when he returned home to Manitoba, Canada after a stint officiating UFC 260 in Las Vegas last month. Valel, a civil servent with the provincial government, had travelled to Vegas despite a travel ban imposed on government employees on February 1 (per CBC).

The ban was instituted after a number of civil servants were caught going on vacation despite the government’s insistence that people only travel for essential trips during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As punishment for his trip to Nevada Valel has been stripped of his interim assistant deputy minister of transformation title, which he assumed in early March. CBC reports that Valel remains as the province’s director of technology transformation for the priorities and planning secretariat, a role he was hired for in February 2020.

Blake Roberts, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s director of media relations, told CBC that Valel’s travel to the US “occurred within the recognized public health protocols of a professional sports bubble and did meet cross-border public health rules.” Even so, Roberts said the travel was “contrary to the intent of the province’s travel directive.”

There has been a question over whether or not Valel was given permission by superiors to break the travel ban. However, Roberts stated that the premier “was not aware of the travel”.

Roberts said that Valel moving back to his previous position in government is “an appropriate action” and that Valel has agreed to not travel outside of Manitoba until the travel ban is lifted.

At UFC 260 Valel refereed Marc-Andre Barriault’s TKO win of Abu Azaitar,

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

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