– asks that Minister’s correspondence be ignored
By Zena Henry
The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) yesterday dispatched a letter to the main branch of Republic Bank instructing that the Council has decided upon a change of signatories to its bank account. The body more than a week ago, by way of a majority vote, decided that the acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba is to no longer sign financial documents on the Council’s behalf. They elected that another Council official, Public Relations Officer, Mr. Royston King, be a signatory.
In the letter dispatched to the Manager of Republic Bank, Mayor Hamilton Green asked that a previous letter which was sent to the bank by Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker be ignored. Whittaker, on August 26, wrote to the bank stating that the removal of Sooba’s signature from the account and the recent decision to send the Council’s Treasurer Ron Mc Calman on administrative leave, are unlawful acts.
The Minister pointed the bank to Sections 116-119 of the Municipal and Districts Council Act 28:01, in conjunction with Section 326 (4, 5, 6), to identify the course of action to be taken in the absence of the Local Government Commission which deals with the hiring and disciplining of local government officers. The Minister said that the Council may make recommendations to the Ministry on disciplining an officer, but only the Minister can make the final decision. The Minister reminded that Sooba remains the de facto Town Clerk and suggested that the bank should seek legal advice on the matter.
However, in Mayor Green’s letter, he stated that under the sections cited by the Minister, he (Whittaker) has no power to appoint any Officer making more than $18,000 per annum. The Mayor further pointed out that Sooba remains the de facto Town Clerk, but the Minister’s appointment was quashed by the Chief Justice (Ag) Ian Chang when the appointment was challenged in April.
The Mayor continued that Sections 72-78 of the Act are clear on the Council’s authority in relation to employees and reminded that a request to the Appeal Court for a stay against Council decisions against Sooba was refused. He stated further that the Council has the “right and responsibility to ensure the integrity of its internal administrative arrangements.”As such, “Ms. Carol Ryan Sooba and Mr. Ron Mc Calman remain on administrative leave as per decision of the Council….”
Mayor Green provided the bank with certain sections of the law, which he says the Minister “deliberately” omitted. Section 149 of the Act speaks to Council’s payment procedure. The Mayor emphasized that the Council’s account belongs to the Council and “unless the Minister can state the specific law which gives him authority over our accounts, the Council’s decision remains in force.”
The missive was copied to the Local Government Minister, the Opposition Leader David Granger, and Attorney General Anil Nandlall among other Government officials. Lawyers for the Council have already requested action from the bank on the decision to remove Sooba’s signature with immediate effect.
A week ago, the Council voted to remove Sooba’s signature from their account, but that information was not recorded in the Council’s minutes as the acting Town Clerk told the executives that the action was not implementable.
Last Monday, Sooba and Mc Calman were sent on administrative leave to facilitate investigations into the handling of Council’s account. The waiver of more than $27M for a popular businessman, who the Council said did not deserve an exemption of rates and taxes, sparked the vote against the Officers. The Council made a formal police complaint against Minister Whittaker for “illegally” instructing Sooba, who later instructed the Treasurer, to make the waiver.
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