Linden Town Clerk challenges dismissal

The newly dismissed Town Clerk of Linden, Jonellor Bowen, has written to Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan challenging her dismissal.

Attorney Anil Nandlall, writing to the minister on behalf of Bowen, requested that “[Bulkan] rescind the purported revocation of [Bowen’s] appointment as the Town Clerk with immediate effect,” failing which the dismissal will be challenged by legal proceedings.

In challenging Bulkan’s decision Nandlall noted that the Local Government Commission Act removed from Bulkan the authority he purported to exercise under Sections 118(1) and 326(4) of the Municipal and District Council’s Act, Chapter 28:01. He argued that while the commission has not been established, the Act itself removes powers from the minister.

In his dismissal letter to Bowen, Bulkan cited these provisions at least one of which 118(1) refer to

Ronald Bulkan

the authority of the Local Government Commission to exercise “disciplinary control” over local government officers earning more than $18,000 per month.

Though the APNU+AFC government has continuously stated that it is committed to strengthening the local government systems, Bulkan continues to exercise functions which are intended to be carried out by the Local Government Commission one year after local government elections were held. The government is still to clear the way for the appointment of this commission which it had championed while in opposition. While the opposition and trade unions have identified their nominees President David Granger and Minister Bulkan are still to name theirs. They have also not provided a time frame within which they will do so.

Jonellor Bowen

In the letter to the minister, Bowen, through her attorney, also challenges Bulkan’s failure to afford her a hearing before revoking her appointment; serve her with notice or provide her with any reasons for her dismissal.

“I am to inform you that Sections 118(1) and 326(4) of the Municipal and District Council Act, Chapter 28:01, do not authorize you or vest you with any authority to act, arbitrarily, capriciously, discriminatorily, vindictively, in violation of and contrary to the rules of natural justice or unlawfully, or illegally,” the letter to Bulkan states.

The Linden Town Council on July 27, 2016 passed a no-confidence motion against Bowen. This was the third such motion brought against Bowen and the second by the current council.

However, Bowen remained on the job until October, 2016 when the Mayor Carwyn Holland sent her on administrative leave, pending the report of a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) set up by Bulkan. The CoI was tasked with investigating all complaints and matters raised by the Mayor and Town Council regarding Bowen’s performance, as well as the no-confidence motion brought against her.

Bowen had argued that the motion was illegal since it did not conform to the conditions as set out in the Municipal and District Council’s Act. The council had accused Bowen of malicious attempts to stymie the development of the municipality and bring the council into disrepute.

After five hearings held between September 1 and 19, 2016 the commission, which was led by former regional chairman Mortimer Mingo, recommended that Bowen be reassigned to another post in the Ministry of Communities.

This recommendation was made even though the commission agreed that the no-confidence motion had not followed legal procedures.

The recommendation was based solely on the commission’s concern that Bowen’s temperament and attitude may lead to further stymieing of the work of the council since there were frequent clashes between her as head of the council’s administrative arm and the members of the political arm including the Mayor.

In presenting its findings the commission noted that “from the evidence presented it was clear that very little was being done at the time of the investigation in terms of serving the Linden community” because of the impasse between the Town Clerk and the council.

However, Bowen returned to her post on March 1, this year as Ministry of Communities Permanent Secretary Emile McGarrell chose not to have her reassigned.

In a letter to the Mayor of Linden, McGarrell had stated that the procedural flaws attached to the no-confidence motion moved against Bowen could not be supported and that a transfer would not be approved. Bulkan has now taken a different direction.

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