The recent attempt by City Hall executives to remove the signature of acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba from the Municipality’s bank accounts has failed. In a reply to a request by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), Republic Bank has stated that legally, they are unable to remove Sooba as signatory to the Council’s account since that decision does not rest with the Municipality.
After seeking legal opinion, the Bank said it was advised that the Municipal and District Councils Act, provides that whoever holds the office of Town Clerk is the one to sign off on financial documents. According to the letter, “… based on legal advice, the Bank maintains its earlier position that the Town Clerk’s right to countersign checks with the Treasurer emanates from the Municipal and District Councils Act and not from the Council.”
The Bank said that while it seeks to comply with all requests made by its customers, “within the confines of the law,” it will continue to honour cheques signed by the Treasurer and countersigned by the Local Government officer appointed by the Council. They noted also that Minutes, which was dispatched to the Bank along with the letter for the signature change, did not address the appointment of the officer to sign cheques; “as such we are unable to delete the Town Clerk as signatory from the accounts at this time.”
However, should the Council obtain a Court Order giving such directives; the Bank said it will comply immediately.
The M&CC says that it has been trying to reclaim control of its finances for quite some time now. Within recent months, the Council has taken action against its Finance Committee Chairman Junior Garrett and its Treasurer, Ron Mc Calmon, for taking directives from the government- imposed Town Clerk rather than the Council. They said that the Council’s money is being spent without the knowledge and consent of the Councilors.
Given that the body has been crying broke and is currently unable to satisfy the needs of the city, many have called for Sooba’s removal as Town Clerk.
It was suggested that the “unauthorized” sum of money already spent by the Town Clerk could be more than $2M.
“And that is what we know about,” Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green had stated. This money includes half a million dollars in legal fees for Sooba in her personal capacity; over $400,000 for a brand new executive chair and suite and the building of security stations at her residence.
Outside of this she is accused of waiving more than $50M in rates and taxes for a businessman among others. The Deputy Mayor had pointed out also that there is evidence to believe that the Town Clerk is set to purchase a new vehicle and other small appliances for her office.
The Mayor had also spoken out against these activities since he claimed that Sooba was denying his office basic items such as ink for his office printer, stationery, gas for his vehicle, and among other things, sanitary items.
However, Councilors believe that Officers are facilitating Sooba in her activities. The Treasurer has to sign off on financial documents, while the Town Clerk countersigns. Mc Calmon is accused of knowingly signing off on documents the Council is unaware of, and according to the law, there are certain expectations he must observe to prevent this. The Council voted to send him and Sooba on Administrative leave, but this has been legally challenged.
Garrett has been removed as Chairman of the Finance Committee, since it is believed that he too was signing off on documents unknown to the Council. The Finance Chairman, Vice Chairman or another Councilor on that Finance Committee must countersign certain documents, but according to Councilors, they have been signing those that don’t go to the Council for scrutiny. The first meeting since Garrett’s removal had to be aborted last week when the Town Clerk reportedly told the Councilors that the Municipality and all other Local Government organs had been dissolved.
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