The City Council has been told by Attorney General Anil Nandlall that it faces contempt of court proceedings if it makes any attempt to replace Town Clerk Carol Sooba and Mayor Hamilton Green is now seeking advice on the matter.
Green yesterday hosted a press conference in his office along with Deputy Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green, and other councillors. He stated that there is a legal contention in this matter and that he will be seeking advice on how to proceed but in the meantime the council is requesting that Sooba be sent on leave so that appropriate measures can be taken in the interest of the council.
Chief Justice Ian Chang last week ruled in a case brought by city council official Royston King that Sooba’s appointment was “legally defective” since former Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud did not have the lawful authority to appoint anyone.
Justice Chang said that Persaud’s decision to appoint Sooba as the Town Clerk was “ultra vires” since that responsibility was vested in the Local Government Commission, although it has never been set up.
“…It is the finding of the court that the Minister acted ultra vires the provisions of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, and his decision to appoint Carol Sooba as Town Clerk must be quashed,” Justice Chang said.
However, he added that his decision does not prevent Sooba from continuing to perform the functions of Town Clerk as the “de facto” Town Clerk. It needed a direct challenge by quo warranto (a proceeding during which an individual’s right to hold an office is challenged) to bring her de facto functioning to an end, Justice Chang said.
While legal advice is sought, the council is requesting Sooba to proceed on two years earned, paid leave immediately, Green said yesterday. He added, “In a normal environment where someone has earned two years of leave and are involved in a contentious matter, a wise person would accept rather than impede or intercept the action.”
He said that the problems facing the council go well beyond the ruling of the Chief Justice. He charged that Sooba has been engaging in the worst sort of behaviour unbecoming of a public official with the cover and support and maybe sanction of “the powers that be”. He called her an errant and arrogant public official who engages in puerile and childish activities as evidenced by her refusal to authorize the fuel allocation to his office for vehicular use prompting him to use his personal vehicle. He stated that the reason for this is because he addresses her as “Sooba, carrying out the duties of the Town Clerk” contrary to her demand to be referred to as the Town Clerk. Sooba has not been available to Stabroek News for comment on any of these matters.
Sooba also stands accused of financial misappropriation. The Mayor pointed out that Sooba, without the support of the finance committee or council allegedly used $500,000 from the coffers of the council to pay legal fees to an attorney not known to the council in relation to the matter brought against her by King. Green said that the Attorney General has been advised of this matter but is yet to respond but was able to write them on this more recent matter with Sooba. The mayor mentioned that he also wrote the Police Commissioner yesterday on the alleged misappropriation.
The city council used to be responsible for the appointment and termination of any official through the Personnel Training Committee and appropriately formed panels. According to the Deputy Mayor, these panels functioned in the absence of the Local Government Commission but this was deviated from in 2009 when then Minister of Local Government Kellawan Lall began making such appointments in the absence of the said commission.