…Duncan to seek legal advice on way forward
Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green yesterday adopted the legal advice provided by Attorney-at-Law Maxwell Edwards, when she disallowed a no confidence motion brought against Town Clerk, Royston King, by Alliance For Change (AFC) Councillor, Sherod Duncan.
During the council’s statutory meeting at City Hall yesterday, it was pointed out that Edwards, a former Magistrate, provided the advice to King, and not the council. The Mayor subsequently circulated the advice from Edwards, who is also the husband of city councillor, Noelle Chow-Chee.
Among other things, Edwards advised that the motion be amended to remove the ‘no confidence’ clause. Duncan subsequently advised the Council that he will not change ‘a line’ or ‘a full stop’ in the motion.
Further repeated calls for Duncan to seek an amendment to the motion went unanswered. The Mayor then ruled that the motion in its original form would not be allowed.
“It is a bizarre afternoon,” Duncan told reporters after walking out of the meeting accompanied by fellow AFC councillor and Deputy Mayor, Lionel Jaikaran, who seconded the motion.
“The Mayor has said that the council did not ask for legal advice on the matter. The Town Clerk has asked for legal advice and before the matter that is on the agenda is heard, the legal advice is heard, which was not circulated before the council meeting. That is egregious,” Duncan stated.
The motion was placed on the meeting’s agenda by the Town Clerk based on advice of the Mayor. It was scheduled for debate and vote. There was a motion on the agenda to have the vote conducted by secret ballot.
The visitors’ gallery was filled, the media came out in full force and there were tense moments as discussions erupted prior to the motion being struck down.
“Let us end this circus,” one councillor belted out while another asked, ‘Who is Sherod Duncan?’
Edwards concluded that the motion in its original form is ultra vires; hence, is not a business required to be transacted at a meeting. He pointed out that the Mayor, presiding at a statutory meeting, has a duty to prevent any business that is ultra vires the Municipal and District Councils Act (Chapter 28:01) from being transacted at such a meeting.
According to Edwards’ advice, a vote of no confidence in King is in substance and intent, a disciplinary measure or action. The attorney stated that a Town Clerk cannot be disciplined by the City Council, only by the Local Government Commission (LGC), which became operational on October 23, 2017.
Duncan disagreed. He told the media that although the intent was to secure the no confidence vote for the LGC’s consideration, the motion in itself, made no mention of disciplinary action.
“A no confidence motion is what it says; you have no confidence in the Town Clerk. The motion never called for his dismissal. It never called for his suspension. It is plainly stating that you have no confidence because of his performance on the job. We called for no disciplinary action in the motion,” Duncan stated.
He explained that if the no confidence vote was secured, the next move would have been to approach the LGC, where King would be heard.
“Before that could happen, the Town Clerk is heard through his legal advice, and that is bizarre. The complainant is heard before the mover of the motion. It is a bizarre day in local democracy and all that we have fought for on the 18th of March, two years since local Government elections were held. This is a slap in the face of local democracy where the complainant is heard before the mover of the motion,” Duncan stated.
King, as head of City Hall’s administration, is facing a number of accusations, including undertaking millions of dollars in works without adhering to proper procurement procedures.
Jaikaran shared that he is not convinced that Georgetown has the person who is best suited for the position of Town Clerk.
“On too many occasions our Town Clerk has acted impetuously and without the mandate of the council…our reputation is in tatters. The citizens are furious with their elected councillors. We are not doing the job we have been sent here to do, and we cannot do that job unless we are all on the same page. And this is why I supported the no confidence motion,” Jaikaran stated.
Duncan stated that he will seek legal advice and that the motion, if it is brought back, will be in its original form.
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