…as paid parking continues amid adjournment
Paid parking in Georgetown will continue despite orders from Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, who suspended the Metered Parking By-Laws for three months, effective last Friday.
Yesterday, at an extraordinary statutory meeting, the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown (M&CC) took a decision which defies the Minister’s orders, and paves the way for paid parking to continue, at least until the council’s next statutory meeting scheduled for Monday.
During a three-hour long session at City Hall, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)–aligned Councillor Heston Bostwick moved the first motion, which seeks to give the council more time to study the legal implications that a suspension of the metered parking by-laws would attract.
Bostwick, with the support of 17 other councillors, the majority of them being his APNU colleagues, holds the view that even the Minister should be furnished with a copy of the legal advice received by the council.
“This is, in no way, attempting to, deliberate or otherwise, to disrespect the honourable Minister in his capacity or as an individual,” Bostwick said.
Meanwhile, Town Clerk Royston King told the council that since he was the one who signed onto the parking meter contract, it was important that he sought clarity pertaining to the legal implications.
The council’s lawyer, Roger Yearwood, in a three-and-a-half page response to King, said that Minister Bulkan misinterpreted the law used to issue the suspension on the parking meter by-laws.
The Minister had issued the order based on the powers conferred upon him by virtue of Section 306 of the Municipal and District Councils Act
“The Act contemplates an intervention by the Minister, where the Council is ‘in default on the performance of any duty imposed upon it’ and not for ‘default of their functions’, whatever that term connotes and as used by the honourable Minister,” Yearwood said in his advice.
The Attorney-at-Law also pointed out the failure of the Communities Minister to hold an inquiry before issuing the order.
“The Act contemplates that an inquiry must be held by the Minister in order to establish that the Council is in default in the performance of any duty imposed on it. This inquiry, naturally, necessitates a hearing at which the Council must be afforded an opportunity to be heard, in accordance with the rules of natural justice, which militates against a person being condemned without being afforded an opportunity to be heard in his own defence,” said Yearwood.
He explained that since no such inquiry was held, the council does not know in what way it is being alleged that the Council is in default, whether of “their functions” as stated by the Minister or “in the performance of any duty imposed upon it.”
Yearwood is contending therefore, that the order of the Minister is null and void, since it is ultra vires, meaning – it is beyond Bulkan’s legal power or authority.
“It is important to note that the Order of the honourable Minister does not suspend or purport to suspend the Georgetown Metered Parking By-Laws, but rather, directs the Council to do so,” Yearwood posited.
The Lawyer reminded that if the Council accedes to that mandate, it would make City Hall susceptible to a costly breach of contract.
After about three hours of arguments in the Chambers of City Hall, Councillor Roopnarine Persaud moved to point out that the same legal firm representing City Council is also representing the parking meter company – Smart City Solutions.
Town Clerk King rebutted that while it is the same entity, the two bodies – City Council and Smart City Solutions – are being represented by two different lawyers of the legal office of ‘Fraser, Housty and Yearwood’.
“There are ethical standards which must be observed by lawyers, even though they are working out of the same chambers,” King said.
In the meantime, some of the other councillors, mainly those from the People’s Progressive Party Civic camp, were in favour of the council carrying out, what they said was a direct order from the Communities Minister, and by extension, the Guyana Government and President David Granger.
The councillors of the Georgetown municipality are expected to vote on whether or not the parking meter by-laws should be suspended, before the end of the month.
Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan has also indicated his disinterest in chairing the next statutory meeting. He then enquired about the return of Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, and was told that she will be back in the country by this weekend. The next meeting, as indicated by Duncan, is set for next Monday.
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