City Hall’s Royston King on Tuesday made an application in the High Court which could lead to the formal removal of his Town Clerk rival Carol Sooba in line with a ruling that was made last month by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang.
It was the latest in a flurry of litigation embarked upon by King, Sooba and the State over who should be Town Clerk.
King is praying for a rule nisi to be issued to Sooba and Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker to show cause why an information in the nature of a quo warranto (a writ formerly requiring a person to show by what authority he/she exercises a public office) should not be exhibited against Sooba.
On April 10, Chief Justice Chang in a ruling had quashed Sooba’s appointment as Town Clerk saying that former local Government Minister Ganga Persaud did not have the lawful authority to appoint anyone. Justice Chang had also said that King’s suit did not challenge Sooba’s authority as the appointee of the minister to the office but rather the decision of the minister in appointing her to that office. “It is not her authority which is challenged in these proceedings…rather it is the authority of the minister,” he said.
Further, Justice Chang had said that his decision did not prevent Sooba from continuing to perform the functions of Town Clerk as the “de facto” Town Clerk since a direct challenge was needed to bring her de facto tenure to an end.
It is this direct challenge that King has now embarked upon. In the legal documents seen by this newspaper, King through his lawyer Nigel Hughes made the application to determine by what authority Sooba claims to exercise the functions of Town Clerk for the Georgetown Municipality “on the basis that the Minister of Local Government was possessed of no authority to appoint her to act in the position of Town Clerk….”
The Chief Justice had also said 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.
King in his affidavit said that it has been one month since the decision and the Local Government Minister has “failed and or refused to appoint any members to the Local Government Commission” and that he has since been advised that Sooba’s appointment is flawed and must be vacated. Subsequent to King filing the writ on Tuesday, Sooba also filed an application in the High Court and secured eight temporary orders to suspend City Hall’s recent decision to appoint King as Town Clerk.
The orders were granted by Justice Chang. Stabroek News has learnt that Justice Chang has since recused himself from the matter. The matter was subsequently heard before Justice Yonette Cummings and lawyers for Sooba and King were given leave to file affidavits.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader David Granger at a press conference yesterday said that the coalition is fully in support of King’s appointment. “The entire process involving the Ministry of Local Government is badly flawed and it constitutes an unusual intervention into the work of City Hall with the intention of frustrating the elected councilors.”
“We are fully in support of the elected council and we are in support of the appointment of Mr Royston King as Town Clerk and we feel that the whole purpose of local democracy is to ensure that those persons who are elected are allowed to choose the officers who are going to administer the city council. It is quite clear that the appointment of Ms Sooba has caused a great deal of mismanagement at City Hall…. The way to solve the problem is to remove Ms Sooba,” he said.