Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan has written to the city’s Town Clerk saying that the corporal who was dismissed for supposedly failing to take action during an alleged sexual assault on a minor by a lance corporal, must be given a fair hearing.
Corporal Quacy Baveghems was dismissed by Town Clerk Royston King on October 17 for alleged dereliction of duty in failing to intervene or make an entry of the incident in the station diary. However Baveghems did report the matter to his senior at City Hall and his dismissal is being seen as punishment for having done so.
It appears that Baveghems made a complaint of wrongful dismissal to the Ministry of Communities and Bulkan wrote King on the matter, King replied on October 31st and in a reply dated November 9th, 2017, Bulkan said there were many discrepancies in the reply.
“It is clear that at the time of Mr Baveghems’ dismissal, the Legal Affairs and Security Committee (of the city) was in the process of investigating the matter brought to its attention and had not yet completed its work…
“Further, there is no mention that the Minutes provided were placed before the legal Affairs and Security Committee for confirmation and signature by the Chair-man, in accordance with Section 66 of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Cap. 28:01.
“Therefore, your actions may be deemed as ultra vires since the Legal Affairs and Security Committee was not given the opportunity to complete its responsibilities, neither was the Commit-tee allowed to report its findings and make recommendations to the Council”, Bulkan wrote to King.
The Minister further said that Baveghems’ appearance before the committee was seen as a response to the committee’s request for information for an investigation of the matter and not to answer any charge which in any event had not been laid against him.
Bulkan added that the Minutes of the committee meeting and the media have stated that city councillor Bishram Kuppen and Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran raised their concern that the proper course of action via the city constabulary is to be taken while addressing the matter.
“I am advised that due process to discipline Mr Baveghems has not been followed in this matter and I now advise that same be done forthwith…”, Bulkan said.
He added that the Ministry of Communities will not condone unfair or wrongful treatment being meted out to employees of any local democratic organ.
Chairman of the city’s Legal Affairs Committee, Sherod Duncan who yesterday posted Bulkan’s correspondence on his Facebook page could not state when the hearing for Baveghems is expected to be held but noted that it was advised that it be done “almost immediately.”
“The thrust of the Minister’s argument is that the Corporal…was not given a fair hearing. In some previous correspondences, the Town Clerk had said that when [the Corporal] had appeared before the Legal Affairs Committee, he was being given a hearing before his dismissal and it is on that basis—based on certain things he had said to the committee— he was being dismissed,” Duncan told this newspaper.
Duncan, however, said he pointed out to the Minister that the minutes of the committee meeting could not be used as justification for firing the Corporal, as the minutes had not yet been corrected and accepted. Furthermore, he argued that it is not the role of the Legal Affairs Committee to deal with human resources issues, as that is done through the council’s human resource department and committee.
Duncan had referred to the decision by King to fire the Corporal who made the report against his fellow Constable, and the accused in the matter, as one of the “events that overtook the committee” during the course of its investigation.
“So it is because of the single action of the Town Clerk in not consulting, in not asking, in not querying anything with the Legal Affairs Committee, we are in this mess,” Duncan said.
Addressing the Movement Against Parking Meters’ (MAPM) calls for his removal from the council, Duncan called the situation “unfortunate.”
The MAPM, during recent protests, called for the removal of Duncan, King, and Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, on the grounds that they had poorly handled the sexual assault allegation by failing to involve the police and child services.
“I think MAPM is unfortunate in two instances—one, MAPM does not follow the goings-on of council very closely and that is clear…” Duncan stated, adding that the matter is more nuanced than they took it to be.
“…it’s public knowledge—when we met on the 13th of September, a lot of information that we needed, we didn’t have then. The juvenile in question, or the alleged victim in question, was in the custody of the city because he was taken to court and the court couldn’t ascertain his age. He had given his age as 18 and the court had asked the city constabulary to detain him until his age could be ascertained so they were waiting on his birth certificate. So when we got the matter in September, we had an alleged juvenile,” he stated.
“Number two, the child protection laws, while we appreciate it, says that the matter should be reported to the police—and I can appreciate that. The city constabulary is a legal policing entity,” he added.
Duncan related that with these things in mind, the committee was attempting to get as many facts as possible on the matter.
He reminded that the committee was tasked only with determining whether the accuser and the accused should be sanctioned. He pointed out again, as was previously reported by this newspaper, that because the legislation says that anyone who has knowledge of such crimes should report it to the police, and because there were reports circulating in the media before the allegation came to the committee, anyone who would have read the report could be deemed to have had knowledge.
“…whether you want to get emotional and say that we had knowledge, I’m giving you the facts right now…as I said, events overtook us, the matter became fully into the public domain and then accusations started to fly left, right and centre about who were trying to hide matters and all of that, but that was as far from the truth as can be,” Duncan stated.
“So for everybody to say that the Chairman should resign or the members of the committee should resign, I think is quite unfortunate without having all the facts. We had no facts, we had accusations that were made. Mind you, the young man never filed a complaint. His family to date has not filed a complaint in the matter. All of that is just the facts of the matter. And what we wanted was all of the facts, everybody who had knowledge. As a matter of fact, one of the reports that are still outstanding is the report from the Town Clerk,” he said, adding that King’s is the only report the committee has requested that has not been turned in to date.
Reports had also been outstanding from about five members of the constabulary who were said to be on duty that night.
Duncan said the committee will be examining the balance of those reports tomorrow, and from then, they will be able to come to a conclusion on the matter. The committee’s recommendations, he said, should be available within a week.
On October 21st, Duncan had told Stabroek News “In hindsight, I don’t think it ever entered into the mind of the committee that they should take the onus of calling in the police. It was a misjudgment on the part of the committee”.
Police investigators will be focusing on the alleged sexual abuse of the 15-year-old boy committed by the city constabulary officer two months ago and not on the failure of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) of Georgetown to report the case in a timely manner, ‘A’ Division Commander Marlon Chapman said last month.
Police last month also arrested the Lance Corporal at the centre of the allegations after it was alerted by King, who also dismissed the rank on the same day for misconduct.
Questions have been raised about why the matter was not immediately reported to the police or the Childcare and Protection Agency, as is required under the law.
The Lance Corporal was dismissed by King a day after he (King) had said that there was not enough evidence for the city administration to take action. King had told a statutory council meeting that despite the “enormous publicity” given to the case, it was a matter of “mere allegation” up to that point.