Efforts on the part of some members of the Georgetown City Council to have Public Relations Officer, Royston King, appointed as Town Clerk were labelled by Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr Kellawan Lall as movements akin to “political shenanigan”.
Lall was at the time addressing a press conference at his Ministry’s Fort Street, Kingston, boardroom yesterday to highlight his concerns about the process of appointment which he claims is “null and void …(and) attempts to create mayhem.”
It is the belief of the Minister that the manner in which efforts are being made to have King installed “is going to have some serious implications. I was made to understand that Mr King attempted to usurp the functions of the Town Clerk.”
The Minister voiced his belief that such an act is characteristic of an offence and therefore he intends to seek legal advice in order to adequately pursue the matter.
“I do intend to hold an investigation into this matter and if it is true King and any other officer in the Council who attempted to usurp the position of the Town Clerk, especially King, I would consider him not worthy of the position of Town Clerk any longer.”
“He claims to be an officer of the Council for 25 years. He is making a pretension to be the Town Clerk but he ought to know what the procedures are; one cannot simply go and start performing and exercising authority of statutory officers in such a manner. He will have to pay the penalty.”
The Municipal Personnel Officer will also have to give reason why she should not be dismissed, the Minister said, as she allegedly had instructed the Acting Town Clerk, Mrs Yonette Pluck-Cort, to remove herself from office and hand over to King.
King, in an invited comment yesterday, confirmed that he had assumed the role of Town Clerk following a resolution by the Council to have him act in the capacity until such time that he was appointed by the Minister.
King has since sought legal advice from Attorney-at-law, Nigel Hughes, who in a correspondence to King detailed that he is of the opinion that based on the documents presented, the substantive Deputy Town Clerk (Pluck-Cort) has never been appointed to act as Town Clerk by the Minister.
“In the absence of such an appointment by the Minister, the Deputy Town Clerk cannot act as Town Clerk for the City. Our review of the Council’s records reveals that historically the Council has recommended that various officers of the Council perform the duties of other specific statutory officers.”
These actions by the Council, it was noted, have been submitted to the relevant Minister who has frequently failed to act upon the Council’s recommendation or at all. This inaction, the letter stated, has resulted in several officers of the Council performing the functions of statutory offices for extended periods without confirmation by the Minister. It was further pointed out that these officers have been recognised by the Council and the Minister and on their retirement were assigned statutory duties.
“We have had sight of the resolution of the Council dated the 28th (March) instant in which it resolved that Mr King shall perform the duties of Town Clerk pending the approval of the Minister and we are of the opinion that this is a valid and subsisting resolution.”
“The Council did not purport to appoint a Town Clerk nor did it usurp the powers of the Minister. It merely resolved that King perform the functions of the Town Clerk pending the approval of the Minister,” the letter added.
However, the Minister at his press conference yesterday said that it was in recognition of the need for persons to fill the vacant positions of Town Clerk and City Treasurer and in light of the non-existence of a Local Government Commission that he went ahead through his Ministry to advertise for the positions.
“I received several applications for both positions and I still have them in my possession. In my own deliberate judgment I thought that I would not move to the point of appointment at this stage but to give the Implementation Committee some more time to deal with some other aspects especially the preparation of the budget.”
It was just two weeks ago, the Minister said, that a presentation was made to him by Mayor Hamilton Green; Deputy Mayor Robert Williams and other top officers of the Council as it relates to the deliberations in Council where the budget was concerned.
According to the Minister, he is extremely pleased with the new format of the budget and the manner in which efforts were made to deal with the capital and current programmes and the redirection of resources to critical aspects of the responsibility of the Council.
The fact that the Council has a $400M deficit was also discussed recently, the Minister said. “They requested that I pass on a request to the executive for Central Government to inject some $400M into the budget…But we had a discussion where I said that I believe we can cut that deficit if we are to look at the filling of vacancies; if they are to look at areas where we can remove subsidies and if we can look at other areas of income generation and also tightening the collection of general rates and taxes.”
There were some agreements, the Minister said, where it was observed that efforts could have been made to reduce the deficit thus the request to Central Government would be far less.
But even as it was thought that the Municipal Implementation Committee, appointed by the Minister, was being given a chance to do its work, the Minister noted that the City Council went ahead, “even though they knew that I had already gone out to the public to solicit applications for the position of Town Clerk.
Among the applicants were Municipal Public Relations Officer, Royston King, and Deputy Town Clerk, Pluck-Cort. However, it was revealed at the municipality’s statutory meeting on Monday that Pluck-Cort who was invited for an interview “did not turn up,” a move which was regarded as “gross disrespect” by Councillor Patricia Chase-Green. According to the Minister he has since inquired of Pluck-Cort of her non-attendance and she offered a plausible explanation.
However, the Minister opined that the Council through a resolution, had since sought to put in place, King, who was thought to be the most qualified to fill the position of Town Clerk.
During Monday’s statutory meeting Councillor Ranwell Jordan had moved the motion for King to take up the position of Town Clerk forthwith and that Pluck-Cort should vacate the said position immediately.
“You cannot appoint somebody with immediate effect when in fact you have to make a recommendation to the Minister; they all know that. So in the first place it is null and void and I cannot understand why this motion was allowed because it collides with the provisions of the Municipal and District Council Act.”
According to the Minister the deliberation of the Council was brought to his attention by a letter that was sent to him by his Permanent Secretary, Nigel Dharamlall.
The letter, he said, was signed by one (Paulette) Braithwaite who signed on behalf of the Town Clerk and stated that King, with effect from March 1, 2011, was appointed as the new Town Clerk.
The correspondence also requested that the Minister through the Permanent Secretary give his approval to the appointment.
“I found that to be a very strange manner of approaching the Minister for his approval for his appointment of Town Clerk. It has never been done that way before and I get the impression that Ms Pluck, who is the acting Town Clerk, had no knowledge of this letter…
“This is the first time that something like that has been transmitted to me,” the Minister opined.
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