-recognises Sooba as acting Town Clerk
Junior Garret, who a majority of city councillors voted to replace as chair of their Finance Committee, is maintaining that he still legally occupies the post and he recognises the legitimacy of Carol Sooba’s claim to the office of Town Clerk.
At a special meeting last week, a motion of no confidence was passed against Garret after councillors claimed he made decisions unilaterally and signed off on the spending of the city’s money without the council’s permission. The motion resolved to remove Garret as the Finance Committee Chairman.
In an invited comment, Garret told Stabroek News yesterday that all of the motions moved against him were “illegal,” while denying all of the allegations made against him.
According to the motion, earlier this year Garret attempted to present a financial paper he claimed was the council’s budget for 2014, to the Minister of Local Government. It added that he did so despite an earlier decision by the full council that the budget needed the council’s input.
“It is very clear that Ms. Carol Sooba and Mr. Garret have assumed imperial-like powers to spend our money without any consultation, or authority – a wholly untenable situation that is strategically inhibiting the ability of the council to address the felt needs of the city,” the motion further said.
But Garret challenged the bases for the motion brought against him.
“It is being alleged that I signed off on a $500,000 cheque and that is totally untrue. And it is also being alleged that I presented a financial paper as the council’s budget and that too is totally inaccurate. I did not submit any documents to the Minister. I explained to him (Minister) that the budget had not been approved,” he said.
“Legally I am still the Finance Chairman and until the Minister writes me to say that he has no confidence in me I will continue to act as the Finance Chairman,” he added.
At a meeting on Monday, Mayor Hamilton Green had announced that Garret had been replaced as the Chairman of the Finance Committee by Eon Andrews. Garret was elected to the post of Finance Chairman after the position became vacant due to the passing of former Deputy Mayor Robert Williams.
Garret also opined that all of the meetings called recently by the Mayor and councillors were illegal. “Only one person calls meetings for Parliament; that is the Clerk. And at City Hall that person is the Town Clerk. The Mayor has no authority to call any meeting…I don’t know about Mr. [Royston] King being the Town Clerk, which is a total disrespect for the legal system,” he added.
King was installed by the Council last week as the officer performing the duties of Town Clerk after a majority of councillors voted for Sooba’s removal.
Questioned as to who will be receiving the salary of the Town Clerk next week when monies are to be dispersed, Garret said, “I have to sign the pay cheques… The Town Clerk (Sooba) has the authority to withdraw the monies. We can’t pay two town clerks, and based on Justice Chang’s ruling Sooba remains the Town Clerk.”
Mayor Green said that the Council is awaiting word from the bank as to the new signatories to the municipality’s bank accounts. “Once the bank accepts King’s signature we will proceed to put things in order,” he said.
Minister in the Ministry of Local Government, Norman Whittaker has stood behind Sooba’s claim to the office and in an invited comment yesterday he said that King was not authorised to receive any monies. “King is not authorised to receive any monies and he is not authorised to spend any monies. If he does he will be treading dangerously,” he said. “You appeal the decision but go ahead with what the Mayor said? This means that you have no confidence in the justice system,” Whittaker added, referring to the appeal of Justice Chang’s decision by King. At a recent press conference, the Minister had stated that there is no provision for the Mayor to appoint King as the Town Clerk and it was an illegal decision and the council should await the decision of the appeal.
Meanwhile, Garret also said that the decision to collect money from persons on the seawalls on Easter Day was decided on by the Finance Committee. “For the past 30 years, the council has been seeking permission from the Ministry of Public Works to sell the spots to garner revenue for the council, this is not just something that came up. This is not a council decision,” he explained. “They (council) never made any decision. It was decided at the Finance Committee meeting who will be paid stipends for the work to be done on Easter Day. There was no agreement that we won’t have Easter Monday celebrations,” he said.
Last month, the Mayor had written a memo to Sooba stating that there would be no sale of spots for Easter Monday activities along the seawall and that the public was free to utilise any section of the area in keeping with tradition, contrary to a public advisory she had issued advertising the sale of spots along the seawall from between the Seawall Band Stand to the University of Guyana road.