By Feona Morrison
Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall is expected to hand down a ruling this morning in an application filed by Former Town Clerk Royston King who has taken the Local Government Commission (LGC) to court for unlawfully firing him.
King was fired in January following recommendations made by a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into operations of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, (M&CC). The CoI, which was headed by retired Judge Cecil Kennard, had recommended that King be charged criminally since he was cited for gross misconduct, abuse of office, recklessness, dishonesty, conspiracy, and misappropriation of funds. As a result of the CoI’s findings, King and several other council officials were sent on administrative leave, and subsequently King had his services terminated.
However, a few weeks after he was sacked, King moved to the court asking for a judicial review of the LGC’s decision.
By way of a Fixed Date Application (FDA), King (the Applicant) through his lawyers Maxwell McKay and Patrice Henry, is seeking an Order of Certiorari quashing the decision of the LGC (the Respondent) to summarily dismiss him from the post of Town Clerk for gross misconduct effective on January 23, this year.
The former Town Clerk is also asking the court to grant an Order of Mandamus compelling the LGC to re-instate him and/or immediately pay him all his superannuation benefits, inclusive of pension, gratuity, payments in lieu of annual leave up until he attains the statutory age of retirement on January 20, 2020.
King is also asking the court for an order that he be paid his superannuation benefits, cost and aggravated/exemplary damages for the deprivation of his benefits while on administrative leave, and pension rights under Article 149B of the Constitution, the right to work under Article 149A, which are properties under Article 142 of the Constitution and compensation for public embarrassment and humiliation.
Added to that, the Applicant is also seeking an order and/or declaration that the alleged charge of gross misconduct, and/or any other charge (s) is null, void and of no legal effect, and as a consequence the offences are not encoded in any schedule of offences under the LGC Act, or Section 14 thereto, and ought to have been reported to the police for an investigation and criminal charges, if necessary, instituted.
In addition, King is also asking the court for an order and/or declaration that his summary dismissal from his post as Town Clerk is incurably tainted by and is the consequence of a CoI report, conducted on September 24 to November 30, 2018, by Justice Kennard, is null, void, of no legal effect, and amounts to a nullity. King also wants interest calculated at 4% per annum from the date the FDA was filed up until judgment and at a rate of 6% per annum from the date of judgment up until fully paid on all money judgment, excluding costs, and any further or other order as the court may deem fair and just.
In his grounds for the application, King contends that the High Court has authority and jurisdiction to grant Orders of Certiorari and Mandamus against the LGC, which has no power to delegate its investigation functions to Justice Kennard, who he said is a stranger, and not a member of the Local government Organ, a staff or employee, as outlined in the Local Government Commission Act. According to the FDA, “The indecent haste by the Local Government Commission in summarily dismissing the Applicant without a hearing and on the recommendation of the CoI report, which terms of reference had nothing to do with the recommendations, and inadmissible hearsay evidence was accepted and admitted and renders the dismissal nugatory.”
The FDA adds, “The Local Government Commission in summarily dismissing the Applicant took no evidence, acted solely on an unauthorised CoI Report which criteria for hearsay irrelevant evidence was rampant, and consequently this decision was disguised, as if an opportunity was granted to facilitate a hearing, when in fact same is cosmetic, null, void and of no legal effect.”
In an affidavit in support, King said that he began working at age 24 with the M&CC permanently and continuously from 1989, as an Environmental Health Assistant, up until, he became Press Officer, then later Public Relations Officer, and finally Town Clerk at the time of his summary dismissal. According to him, “My last appointment in the municipality was on July 14, 2015 in the capacity of Town Clerk for the city of Georgetown. While working in this capacity many challenges would have confronted the council and those which are relevant to my appointment. I would devise all legal and lawful methods to discharge my functions earnestly, conscientiously and sincerely in the best interest of the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown.”
In fact, King, through the affidavit, is adamant that he never acted unlawfully, illegally or criminally during his tenure as a serving member of the M&CC to attract the attention of the police or any disciplinary authority. He says that he was never questioned by the police concerning the discharge of his duties. He further says that he executed his responsibilities consistently with his mandate under Section 77 (1) of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01 of the Laws of Guyana.
In the affidavit, King pointed out that he challenged the authenticity, validity and propriety as to the appointment of the CoI, its Chairman and its findings. He added, “I attended the aforesaid Commission of Inquiry, under protest, since it was unlawfully appointed and in breach of the Local Government Commission Act (supra) Laws of Guyana.” According to him, on January 7, 2019 he received another letter from LGC Chairman Mortimer Mingo under the heading ‘laying of complaints/disciplinary charges’.
He recalled that immediately after receiving the letter, he contacted his lawyers and attended a meeting with them. He added that his lawyers prepared a letter dated January 8, 2019, which was addressed to the Chairman of the Local Government Commission. At that time, King said his lawyer was an integral part of a team of lawyers in the No Confidence Motion constitutional matter, which was before the High Court. He also said that because of the magnitude, complexity and importance of that matter, its preparation and presentation precluded him (his lawyer) from attending a January 11, 2019 meeting with the commission.
The Applicant said that this was communicated to the commission and an extension of seven days was granted. He stated that within the stipulated period the said constitutional matter intensified, and despite his plea for a further date after a ruling was rendered in the matter, he was dismissed. He said, “I pleaded with the commission for another adjournment, and even cited the volume of charges which would have required several adjournments to conclusively conclude the meeting, but this necessary facility was promptly refused despite me having a lawyer on record.”
Among other things, the Applicant contends that he was advised by his lawyers and does verily believe that his summary dismissal is null, void, and of no legal effect, and ought to be set aside, quashed and disregarded. King notes that since his unlawful dismissal, he is embarrassed, unemployed and deprived of his pension rights. Further to this, he says that he is not a contracted employee and as such has a legitimate expectation to be treated fairly, equally and in conformity with Article 149A of the Constitution, otherwise his right to work will be violated.
King noted, “I was advised by my attorney-at-law and do verily believe that I am entitled to all the benefits, reliefs and/or remedy aforementioned having regard to the circumstances of my application and evidence…”
It his contention that the allegations leveled against him were criminal in nature, but unlike the universally unaccepted principle of equality, transparency and equity, the LGC acted as judge, jury and executioner in its own cause, as opposed to calling in the police and obtaining advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions, since state assets and monies were allegedly involved.
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