By Mario Joseph
City Council spokesman Royston King was yesterday installed as the officer performing the duties of Town Clerk even as Carol Sooba maintained that councillors did not have the authority to oust her from the post and warned that they could face jail for contempt of court.
An extraordinary statutory meeting, held yesterday in the City Hall compound, saw the attendance of some 15 councillors who unanimously approved the motion to appoint King to perform the duties of the Town Clerk. The move came two days after councillors voted by majority to remove Sooba and recommitted to a previous decision to put a suitably qualified officer to perform the duties of the office. That meeting was also held in the compound as Sooba again denied the councillors access to the council chamber.
King, who spoke at the meeting, stated that the council was in the worst state he has ever seen it in the over 25 years that he has served it, calling it “The bane of a big joke of this great country.”
King deemed his appointment an instruction of the council under the Municipal and District Councils Act and he said it was his obligation to carry out the duties of the office of the Town Clerk of the City of Georgetown. He optimistically pledged his commitment towards securing the integrity of Georgetown and urged the attendees and councillors, “with wisdom and strength, let us move forward and build a strong city.”
But Sooba yesterday continued to occupy the Town Clerk’s office and labelled the actions of the Mayor and the councillors illegal.
She said that she will continue to perform her duly appointed duties as the Town Clerk without regard to the unlawful actions of the council members.
“There cannot be two Town Clerks. I possess an appointment letter from the Minister and it is the Minister who has the authority to remove me,” she said, before further challenging Stabroek News to ask King to show his appointment letter to the position he now claims to be acting in. She went on to suggest that the actions taken by the councillors are in contempt of court.
Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang recently ruled that former Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud did not have the power to appoint Sooba and therefore the appointment was illegal and must be quashed. Attorney General Anil Nandlall has since appealed on behalf of the Minister of Local Government and seeks to have the order quashing Sooba’s appointment vacated or set aside.
Sooba said submissions made to the Court of Appeal are to be ruled on at 11am today. She confidently stated that the pronouncement by the Court of Appeal today will see the issue of a “Stay of Execution,” preventing the execution of the Order of the Chief Justice which will further sully the councillors’ move to remove her. She also said that the actions of the councillors are already under police investigation.
Meanwhile, at the close of the working day yesterday, King was sought for a comment regarding his first day as the officer performing the duties of Town Clerk. “The first day as the officer acting in the capacity of the Town Clerk went well,” he said. He mentioned that the council has already taken measures to remove Sooba from the list of authorised signatories to the bank accounts of the Council, substituting his name in place. This, he said, was done via a letter sent to the bank signed by the Chairman of the Council Mayor Hamilton Green with the support of the council.
King further explained that he has started dealing with the affairs of the office out of the office of the Mayor by meeting with entrepreneurs and community based groups to discuss a massive clean-up campaign to be launched soon. He said that he plans to engage the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) regarding the state of the roads subsequent to the work performed by the agency because of the numerous letters of complaint he has been in receipt of from members of the public. Finally, he said that there will be meetings with the general staff soliciting their cooperation under the “new dispensation.”