Court stays Sooba’s removal from City Hall

-temporary order blocks King from performing Town Clerk’s duties

Carol Sooba yesterday secured temporary orders to suspend the decision by the Georgetown Mayor and City Councillors to oust her as Town Clerk and install Royston King in her place.

Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang yesterday granted eight temporary orders, including an order quashing the decision to remove Sooba as Town Clerk, an order quashing the decision to send her on administrative leave, orders quashing the decision to appoint, install and swear-in King, unless cause is shown why the decisions are not unlawful. One of the orders restrains King from usurping the office of the Town Clerk, from entering or discharging any powers or duties of the office.

The granting of the orders was based on an application filed by Sooba, through her attorney Roysdale Forde, on Tuesday and is the latest chapter in her turbulent struggle with city councillors. The matter has been adjourned to May 22nd.

Last week, by way of a motion, city councillors by a majority voted to remove Sooba, the government appointed acting Town Clerk and to install King to hold the post.

The motion for Sooba’s removal, moved by councillor Hector Stoute, noted the recent court ruling that the decision by Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud to appoint her was unlawful. It resolved that the council return to a March 3, 2011 decision to put a suitably qualified officer to perform the duties of the office until the establishment of the Local Government Commission.

In light of the court’s ruling, Minister in the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whittaker had announced that Sooba would remain as “acting” Town Clerk.

Justice Chang’s decision on Sooba’s appointment was based on a challenge filed by King last December, asking that the then minister, Persaud, show cause why his decision to appoint Carol Sooba as Town Clerk should not be reversed. King’s move came after Sooba was appointed despite widespread disapproval and also because an interview panel had voted her as the least qualified person for the job. King had charged that the decision was an abuse of power because Persaud had failed to apply the conditions he had originally requested when advertising for a Town Clerk.

Justice Chang subsequently found that Persaud’s decision to appoint Sooba as the Town Clerk was “ultra vires” since that responsibility was vested in the Local Government Service 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.

Both the government and King have appealed the ruling.

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