Five city officers sacked after audit office probe

Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud has ordered the sacking of five Georgetown municipality officers, including the substantive Town Clerk, Treasurer and Engineer, following the conclusion of a probe by the Audit Office into mismanagement at City Hall.

Mayor Hamilton Green was copied letters by Minister in the Local Government Ministry, Norman Whittaker, who informed of the termination of services of Town Clerk Yonette Pluck-Cort, City Engineer Gregory Erskine, acting City Treasurer Andrew Meredith, Director of the Solid Waste Management Unit Hubert Urlin, and Accounts Clerk Troy Isaacs “in the public interest,” with effect from December 31, 2012.

Pluck-Cort, Meredith, Erskine and Urlin along with Deputy Town Clerk Sharon Harry-Munroe and Personnel Officer Paulette Braithwaite were sent on leave in July last year, pending the outcome of the investigation, which was triggered by a report on the city’s operations submitted by consultant Ramon Gaskin.

Gaskin’s findings included “phantom” workers on the city payroll, payments to front companies and the abuse of assets. The report, done as part of the work of a committee set up to assess progress by the city in implementing key reforms from the Keith Burrowes Inquiry into the municipality’s operations, also triggered a police investigation. Mayor Green only received letters for three of the officers, namely Pluck-Cort, Meredith and Erskine. But Minister Whittaker told this newspaper that five officers received termination letters in total and the other two were Urlin and Isaacs.

20130103fourIn the December 28th, 2012 letter advising the termination of services of Meredith, which was seen by this newspaper, Whittaker explained that the decision was based on the conclusion of an investigation into alleged mismanagement uncovered by Gaskin, who had accused several officers of major breaches.

Whittaker further advised Meredith that the probe, which was conducted by the Audit Office at the request of the Minister, found evidence that revealed “several acts of transgressions of policies, rules and regulations; negligence in the execution of your duties as City Treasurer ag. and consequential significant demeaning of the integrity of the Office of City Treasurer….”

He said Meredith abused his authority and tarnished the image of the municipality, saying that his “failure to achieve a reasonable standard of efficiency, progress and leadership” in the performance of his duties also contributed to a poor supervision of council staff and their inefficient performance.

“Under the circumstances described above, it behoves the Hon. Minister to take such step/steps that in his considered opinion are necessary to restore and redound to the improvements in the delivery of services to which the citizens of the Georgetown Municipality look forward,” he added.

Meanwhile, Green told reporters yesterday at a press conference that he was delighted at the action taken by the minister.

He also noted that the report he saw on the officers’ dismissals only dealt with a few of the issues he and the council had ex-pressed concern over for a number of years but he added that it brought closure and relief to what seemed to be a cycle of mismanagement.

“I hope that this action by the ministry is the precursor to similar actions at the national level, so that other areas of misdeed and apparent corruption are brought to closure, [and] so that the municipality has not been singled out for this treatment, which I have asked for many years and officers who are in breach should be dealt with,” Green added.

Advertisements for the positions will be posted soon by the City Council.

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