City Solid Waste Director Walter Narine has been accused by two of his employees of pressuring them to take responsibility for reportedly damaging a councillor’s vehicle although they say they have no knowledge of any accident.
City Hall’s Personnel Officer Paulette Braithwaite informed the council of the allegation at the last statutory meeting of 2017, where she was commenting on a reported accident involving a car owned by PPP/C Councillor Khame Sharma.
Stabroek News subsequently attempted to obtain a comment from Narine, but he stated that the Mayor and City Council’s public relations officer Debra Lewis should be contacted instead. Attempts were made to contact Lewis but these proved futile.
The allegation against Narine surfaced during the statutory meeting after Mayor Patricia Chase-Green read a letter submitted by Sharma.
According to the contents of the letter, the accident reportedly occurred in December, 2016, when a garbage truck belonging to the city allegedly damaged a car belonging to Sharma. As a result, he is seeking compensation.
“Once again I am submitting documents relating to this incident hoping that this matter will receive the consideration this matter deserves. Madam Mayor, I am again appealing to you to address an issue that is now reaching one year in breach of completion,” his letter stated.
“This matter has been raised by me on several occasions during statutory meetings of the council in order to ensure that all the members of the council are aware of the incident,” he added.
Both Narine and the workshop manager reportedly said the garbage truck showed no sign of being in an accident and that Sharma could not have produced any evidence to substantiate his claims.
To reiterate this, Town Clerk Royston King requested that the relevant officers, including the Solid Waste Director, be afforded the chance to comment on the issue. It was at this time that Narine rose and said, “Madam Mayor, as you are aware we would have placed [an] open top bin in Shell Road Kitty and our hauler trucks normally clears that. I was brought with an allegation by councillor Sharma at a statutory December last year about some incident that happened allegedly by our truck and this vehicle that was parked somewhere in the vicinity of the Kitty Market.”
He added, “Madam, on investigation of my drivers and loaders, they both denied any involvement of our vehicle; a check was made by the workshop on our vehicle to see if there was any paint or scratches and nothing was found. I advised Councillor Sharma to speak with the workshop manager… The driver and loader were sent to the HR [Human Resources] Manager because the matter was raised with the Town Clerk and related to the HR… from our end, the drivers and loaders denied it and I can only go with that [and] there were no evidence to substantiate the damages he claims. There was no witness to these allegations so we don’t know and that is the status of where things are right now.”
The mayor questioned whether the matter was reported to the police but did not get a response since Sharma was absent during the time the issue was being discussed.
However, when Braithwaite presented her oral report to the council, she said she was visited by two junior officers who indicated that they were being forced to sign a statement saying that they were involved in the accident.
“Madam Mayor, two officers from the Solid Waste Department visited me on this issue and they claimed that they were not involved in any accident with councillor Sharma’s vehicle however, an attempt was made to force them to sign statements that the council’s vehicle was involved in an accident with councillor Sharma’s vehicle. When I investigated the matter, I called the workshop manager. I called the Solid Waste Director and there was no evidence to show that the vehicle was involved in any accident… I am clear in my mind that there was no such accident because the workshop manager said councillor went to him, he examined our vehicle and the extent of the damage…. there was no accident and I advised the workers to sign no such statement and that was months ago,” she further explained.
However, this only prompted the mayor to question her further on who actually requested the signed statements from the workers.
“The Director of Solid Waste attempted to get them to sign the statement to say that they were involved in the accident and they refused to sign, so they came down to me to say that they were protesting because the Director said based on what Councillor Sharma said, they ought to sign the statement and they said to me that they were not involved and that is when I started to investigate,” Braithwaite divulged.
But while the mayor was pressed by other councillors to allow Narine to respond to the claims, King requested that a report on the matter be submitted instead.
His request was granted and the report is expected to be submitted by the next statutory meeting.