Linden’s Town Clerk has been directed to go on administrative leave yesterday, pending the completion of an inquiry into her conduct.
According to a source on the council, Town Clerk Janella Bowen was issued a letter from Mayor Carwyn Holland sending her on administrative leave with immediate effect until the inquiry into her conduct is completed.
The source pointed out that after the woman was issued the letter, a standoff ensued as she allegedly tried to leave the compound with documents that were said to belong to the council.
The source explained that the drama started after Bowen was given the letter and had requested five minutes to speak to her lawyer. The five minutes, the source said, “… turned into a couple of hours. She stayed in the room and locked herself in and used the time to grab documents and when she was coming out, she was seen with them.”
After several members of the council, including the Mayor, noticed her with a bag and documents they contacted the police. However, even after the police arrived on the scene, she refused to give up the documents and it wasn’t until she spoke to her lawyer and the Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Communities that she surrendered the documents.
In an invited comment, Bowen confirmed to Stabroek News that she had received the letter around 3.15 pm. “The truth is, the Mayor is not authorised to send me on administrative leave. So, technically, based on the law, the letter is null and void, because legally this would not be acceptable,” the woman said, while adding that she is unable to say whether she will follow the directive of the letter.
Contacted, Holland told Stabroek News that the letter is legal and valid since the Town Council had sought guidance of the Ministry of Communities, which advised that it had no objection to the course of action.
A letter from Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan to Holland, seen by Stabroek News, stated that the council “may proceed with the recommendations [to send the Town Clerk on leave].”
Questioned about the allegations made against her, Bowen said they are allegations and nothing more until proven otherwise. “We’ve been in the process of an investigative hearing [since] September and I am aware, based on the terms of reference, those documents should be with the Ministry of Communities and I am awaiting a response,” she said.
Bowen said her next step will be to seek advice from her lawyers and other persons on the way forward for her.
“Everything that has happened so far, I have approached it with an open mind. However, I am worried about professional persons being treated the way I am treated. I feel as if as a professional procedures, laws, the constitution and the act that governs the municipality should be followed,” she added.
A source told Stabroek News that the inquiry stems from Bowen allegedly trying to collect money for a task that had been completed by someone else.
“An officer was sent to Georgetown to take down some documents and she billed the council indicating that she was the one who had gone to the city,” the source said.
“… [There were] documents that showed the officer was already sent to Georgetown to take down the letter and she was caught point blank lying,” the source added.
It was noted that while there have been questions about why Bowen wasn’t sent on leave since the inquiry started, the source explained that the council wanted to give her a “fair hearing and a chance” and hence kept her on the job.
It was also pointed out that the Mayor had called for an audit of the council several months ago and one is expected to begin shortly by the Ministry of Communities. The auditors are expected to travel to Linden as early as today.
Meanwhile, Holland said the decision to send Bowen on leave was a carefully considered one. “We would’ve given the Town Clerk a fair chance to redeem herself and to even work with the council in spite of having a hearing against her. We allowed her to continue to function as the Town Clerk and we tried our best to work with her,” he said, while adding that the council came to a collective decision at the last statutory meeting and sought assistance from the Ministry of Communities before it made the decision.
“We wish her the best and she is still the Town Clerk. She is still legally the Town Clerk. But she is on leave and there is an acting Town Clerk [Audrey Nelson] in place until the findings of the inquiry are known,” Holland said.