Showdown: City Inquiry Commission Chairman tells Mayor Chase-Green to “shut up and listen”; she denies being “rude”

Last Updated on Friday, 26 October 2018, 18:23 by Denis Chabrol

City Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green about to testify before Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Municipality of Georgetown.

Sparks flew at the beginning of Georgetown Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green’s testimony before the Commission of Inquiry into the management of the City, eventually forcing Inquiry Chairman, Retired Justice Cecil Kennard to ask her to “shut up” and leave her attitude for City Hall.

When told that, as Chairman of Council’s proceedings, she was the “captain of the ship”, Chase-Green’s asking whether she was expected to go into a ‘storm’ despite the other councillors advice upset Kennard.

Kennard: Madame, please don’t ask the lawyers’ questions. You there to answer questions

Chase-Green: Well, I’m answering but I did not appreciate the question he asked

Kennard: Well, say that…Don’t attempt to be rude

Chase-Green: I’m not being rude

Kennard: You are attempting to be rude

Chase-Green: No, I’m not attempting to be rude

Kennard: Take that sort of attitude to the City Hall, not here

Chase-Green: I’m not attempting to be rude and I will not be rude in here

Kennard: Can you shut up and listen to the questions

Chase-Green: Well, then I will not be able to answer questions

When Commission of Inquiry Lawyer, Everton Singh-Lammy asked for an adjournment until Monday, the Mayor said she was not available on Monday. That, again, prompted the Retired Chancellor of the Judiciary to tell the Mayor that she was responsible.

“You got to try and make yourself available. Whatever date is fixed is fixed,” the Inquiry Commission Chairman said.

Her appearance was eventually adjourned to next week Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 9 AM.

The Inquiry Commission’s Chairman earlier castigated the Mayor for allowing Town Clerk, Royston King to use a legal opinion he had obtained from his personal Attorney-at-Law, Maxwell Edwards and spouse of a Councillor to block debate on a no-confidence motion against King that had been submitted by former Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan.

Attorney-at-Law, Lyndon Amsterdam, representing the City Mayor, and the Inquiry Commission Chairman also clashed over the acceptability of the legal advice that the Council should not debate the Duncan-sponsored no-confidence motion against the Town Clerk on March 12, 2018.

At the heart of the Chairman’s position was that the Town Clerk ought not to have played any part in a matter involving allegations against him more so by obtaining his own advice on which the Council acted. “The Town Clerk should recuse himself from that…any participation or be seen at the meeting,” said Kennard. “Duncan was making serious accusations against the Town Clerk and you are going to act on this advice,” he added.

Also of concern to Kennard was Attorney-at-Law Edwards writing a letter to Duncan threatening legal action on behalf of the Town Clerk.

The Inquiry Commission Chairman told Mayor Green that “you should have sought the (independent legal) advice of another lawyer” such as Attorneys-at-Law, Yearwood and Ramchand. However, she said “I cannot independently on my own seek legal advice from any lawyer but the Council. The Council has its lawyers and the Town Clerk is responsible for that,” she said.

The City Mayor said the advice was read to the entire Council and after several objections by Duncan and discussions, the elected members voted to accept the advice.

Attorney-at-Law Amsterdam, however, said he could not find anything in the Municipal and District Council’s Act 28:01 concerning the procedures the Mayor should follow when there is a no-confidence motion against the Town Clerk. In response, Justice Kennard said the law might not say so but commonsense should be applied.

Amsterdam said if the Minutes of the Council meeting were accurate, the Council dealt with the issue of the no-confidence motion. The issue between Amsterdam and Kennard then arose about whether the motion was dealt with “properly”. “Properly in whose opinion?”, asked Amsterdam, who said that would depend on an analysis.

The lawyer observed that although the Mayor was Chairman she allowed a debate and a vote on whether they had accepted the advice by Attorney-at-Law Edwards. Kennard stood his ground and insisted that “Councillors would have voted on the basis of wrong legal advice, improper legal advice”.

But Amsterdam said the Mayor was asked to defend the collective decision of the Council instead of hers. He said determining whether the advice was proper or improper should not depend on who provided it. “Let us go to the law to show why the advice wasn’t proper. We should not deal with the messenger. We should deal with the message. What is the advice tendered to the Town Clerk and what the Act says that makes that advice improper,” Amsterdam added.

City Mayor Chase-Green said after Duncan and Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran refused to amend the motion, the Council decided that it should “not be entertained”.

[WHEREAS] the Municipality of Georgetown, the National Capital City governed by the Municipal and Districts Councils Act, Chap. 28:01, and which said Act (2009 Amendments to the Principal Act) places on every Councillor a responsibility and duty, among other things, to “Ensure that the municipality is managed in a professional and competent manner by a qualified Town Clerk”;

[AND WHEREAS] His Excellency President David Granger when he visited City Hall told the Council that we are not on the City Council to represent our political parties but to represent the people;

[AND WHEREAS] Town Clerk Royston King has acted outside the interests of the citizens of Georgetown and has shown a total disregard for the Municipal and Districts Councils Act 28:01 which adumbrates the role of the Town Clerk and Council and sets the latter as the supreme decision making body at the municipal level for the City of Georgetown;

[AND WHEREAS] The removal of the vendors from the Stabroek Market and Robb Street  environs in 2016 / 2017 without the authorization of Council, which action brought great distress and hardship on said vendors and which situation saw Central Government intervening; reiterating that vendors ought to be treated with “sensitivity”; President David Granger describing the latter action as “reckless”;

[AND WHEREAS] The contract for the Metered Parking System for Georgetown before being signed was not laid before the Council; and said contract did not derive from the tender and procurement procedure as per Chap. 28:01, among other defects, described by Central Government’s as “onerous”, “burdensome”, “ignorant”, and “exploitative”;

[AND WHEREAS] the Central Government has had cause to call out the National Police to protect citizens from City Hall and its operatives enforcing the bylaws of said Metered Parking System for Georgetown;

[AND WHEREAS] Councillors have made several inquiries / requests of the Town Clerk for specific information relating to the business of Council and have had no responses; in particular Councillor Gregory Fraser’s request for the Minutes showing where the former Council is alleged to have agreed to the Metered Parking System for Georgetown;

[AND WHEREAS] The implementation of a Container Fee, unknown to Council, and a subsequent unilaterally decision by the Town Clerk to block certain businesses that were unwilling to comply with the demands he made on them, as they questioned the fee’s legality; and a competent court subsequently throwing out several cases brought against City businesses on the premise that the M&CC had no right to charge such a fee;

[AND WHEREAS] the Auditor General’s report of 2016/2017 illustrates that the 300 million dollars given by Central Government for the Georgetown Restoration Programme could not be properly accounted for, among other issues and allied matters, has recently led to the announcement of a forensic audit by the Office of the Auditor General;

[AND WHEREAS] there has been a wanton abuse of “Emergency Clause”  under Section 234 “Variation of tender procedure in cases of emergency” to spend millions of dollars, and as a result of which the tendering process, as articulated by Chap. 28:01, has been abandoned altogether; and use of which clause is calculated to subvert the power of the honorable Council;

[AND WHEREAS] the general welfare of workers of the City Council continues to diminish under the tenure of the Town Clerk due to the chronic late payments of wages and salaries, and other benefits, while deduction of monies from workers’ pay for NIS, PAYE etc. continue but which are not transmitted to the relevant agencies;

[AND WHEREAS] there are large amounts of monies owed to companies and individuals for goods and services provided to the Municipality, with some businesses and individuals waiting for over a year for payments; with contracts entered into unilaterally, against the spirit and law, Chap 28:01, including but not limited to Part VII, Section 230, Sixth Schedule (7)(8),

[AND WHEREAS] the general finances of City Council continue to be reported untimely and inaccurately to the Council under the stewardship of the Town Clerk who ultimately is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown, Section 77.(1);

[AND WHEREAS] the Town Clerk unilaterally decides when the Mayor is out of the jurisdiction whether the Deputy Mayor or Councillor can perform the functions of Mayor and what benefits and privileges should accrue to that said individual, and which actions have caused the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan to write to the Mayor a reprimand, stating, among other things, “There can be no doubt that the letter and spirit of the law contemplates that there must at all times, be a Mayor within the jurisdiction of the municipality and common sense would reveal that this would more so apply to the capital city”;  

[AND WHEREAS] the Town Clerk unilaterally entered into an agreement with the company Impressions for the “lease” of numerous billboards and spaces said billboards occupied, without the authorization of Council, and which issue cause the Minister of Infrastructure, Honorable David Patterson to write to the Town Clerk to correct, Section 239, 320, 321;

[AND WHEREAS] on the firing of two officers of the City Constabulary with regards to an alleged sexual assault / rape of a juvenile male who was at the time detained by the City Constabulary and on which firing the Mayor express that Her Worship was “misled” by the Town Clerk, and on which allied matters the Legal and Affairs and Security Committee found the Town Clerk demonstrated poor judgment;

[AND WHEREAS] the “lease” of the Farnum Play Ground and the converting of the Bel Air Playground to an area for residential homes for himself and others, without the consent or knowledge of Council, which latter decision a court of competent jurisdiction is recently ruled against, and on which decision of the Town Clerk occasioned the Minister of Communities, has cause to write to the Mayor saying, “I inform you further, that the undertaking by the Council to convert green spaces in residential areas into housing and other commercial ventures does not find favour with Central Government”;

[AND WHEREAS] the recent “contract” in excess of 125 million dollars awarded by the Town Clerk to Chung’s Global for the works to the Le Repentir Cemetery has not been derived from the tender and procurement procedures as per Chap. 28:01, or the authorization of Council;

[AND WHEREAS] the Minister of Communities, Honorable Ronald Bulkan recently wrote to the Mayor stating, among other things, “I am concerned that the level of internal democracy exhibited by Council may fail to meet the minimum threshold required by Article 74 of the Constitution, and that is expected by His Excellency President David Granger….”, the Minister on that occasion requiring, “a complete list of all contracts, leases, sales, and other transactions involving assets (real estate, equipment etc.) under the control of Council, between the date of assuming office in April 2016 to present”;

[AND WHEREAS] the powers and authority of the Council has been usurped or altogether circumvented on several occasions by the Town Clerk in executing projects and awarding contracts without the consent or knowledge of Council;

[AND WHEREAS], the Town Clerk’s careless and reckless actions, though often guided otherwise by Council, when considered together are calculated to have caused irreparable damage to the image and goodwill of City Hall and the Coalition Government at Local Government before the residents of the municipality, among other considerations;

[NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED] that Council hereby moves and declares a vote of no-confidence in Town Clerk Royston King.

Notice of this Resolution is given on February 26, 2018 and in accordance with Standing Order Rules (8), Chap. 28:01.

Motion proposed by: Sherod Avery Duncan

Seconded by: Lionel Stanislaus Jaikarran

Titles respectively: Councillor, Mayor and City Council, Municipality of Georgetown; Deputy Mayor, Mayor and City Council, Municipality of Georgetown