City Hall shenanigans continued yesterday with a Town Clerk standoff and at least two verbal altercations and came to a head with a bomb scare which forced the evacuation of the building.
At the Statutory Meeting scheduled yesterday, Public Relations Officer Royston King, who was installed by the council last week as the new acting Town Clerk took up his seat at the designated table for the Town Clerk. No sooner had he done so than government appointed acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba charged in and asserted “…The legal Town Clerk is here and there is not going to be a statutory meeting.”
However, an inexorable King remained seated. Seeing that King was not to be moved, Sooba retrieved a chair and placed it directly in front of him stating that she was “not going anywhere.”
In the background, Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase Green and PPP Councillor Kamla Devi Ross hurled insults at each other over the microphone used by the Town Clerk.
“You playing you is a bully,” Devi Ross shouted, as Chase Green attempted to pull the microphone from her hand.
PNC Councillor was also involved in a verbal altercation with Ross, which involved much shouting.
After a lengthy back and forth between the PPP and PNC councillors, Sooba abruptly left the room with her officers in tow. Office of the President Liaison Kwame McCoy, who was also there, left at the same time after stating that the meeting was “illegal.”
Several minutes after Sooba exited, Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green entered the Council Chamber to preside over the statutory meeting, but it was short-lived as reports surfaced that there was a bomb in the building.
In an invited comment, Green told Stabroek News that a security official had alerted him about the bomb. “… The councillors and the persons who were there said that they were prepared to be martyrs. We don’t believe there was a bomb scare,” Green said. Nevertheless they were forced to exit the building as police bomb experts and other security officials took over.
Green said the council had confirmed that the new Finance Committee Chairman is Ian Andrews. Last week, a motion of no confidence was passed against Garrett for his role in the saga as well as for making decisions unilaterally and signing off on the spending of the city’s money without the council’s permission. The motion also resolved to remove Garrett as the Finance Committee Chairman.
According to the motion, earlier this year Garrett 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 Garrett 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.
Meanwhile, in a release to the media yesterday, Sooba said she had received information that there are plans to physically harm her and “to firebomb my residence.
“I have no reason to question the credibility of the information provided to me since neighbours and other individuals have reported to me that strange persons were seen in and around the vicinity of my home on several occasions.
I remain humble and encouraged by the great support given to me by citizens in and out of Georgetown… in the face of concerted efforts by the Mayor and his cabal to stymie my efforts with their anti-Sooba campaign,” the statement said.
On April 10, Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang had ruled that the Local Government Minister did not have the power to appoint Sooba as Town Clerk and therefore the appointment was illegal.
Last week, the Court of Appeal began hearing arguments on an appeal filed by Attorney General Anil Nandlall over Justice Chang’s ruling. Attorney Nigel Hughes who is representing King in the matter was granted three days leave to file an affidavit in answer to the application. Arguments will continue on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker said Sooba was still there as per the Chief Justice’s ruling and that King was misleading the public by referring to himself as acting Town Clerk. “I have since advised the banks that the signatories have not changed…Carol Sooba is the town clerk and the treasurer is the treasurer.”
Whittaker added 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.