Minutes after councillor Sherod Duncan submitted a motion of no confidence against Town Clerk Royston King yesterday, the head of the city’s administration declared that the councillor was guilty of “unethical” behaviour and should be sanctioned for misconduct under the provisions of the Municipal and Districts Council Act.
Duncan along with fellow Alliance for Change (AFC) member, Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran has submitted a motion to have the council declare a lack of confidence in King to competently perform his duties as Town Clerk.
The motion which carries 21 clauses justifying its resolution, argues that King has “usurped” the powers and authority of the council by consistently choosing to circumvent the decision-making body so as to execute projects and award contracts without its consent or knowledge. It further argues that King has acted against the best interest of the citizens of Georgetown and by his actions has repeatedly forced Central Government to intervene to “protect citizens from City Hall”.
Specific mention is made of an award in excess of $125 million to Chung’s Global for the restoration and maintenance of Le Repentir Cemetery. According to the motion this contract was not “derived from the tender and procurement procedures as per [the Act] or the authorization of council.”
King had told the Department of Public Information (DPI) in January that a $150 million contract had been awarded under the “emergency clause of the Act [to] a contractor with the human competencies and technological capability to clear the cemetery and help restore it.”
He has repeatedly made reference to the “emergency clause” of the act when questioned about the City’s failure to publicly tender for millions in products and services, a fact which is clearly referenced in the motion.
The motion argues that the tender process as articulated by the act has been abandoned for “wanton abuse of the Emergency Clause under Section 234 – Variation of tender procedure in cases of emergency to spend millions of dollars.” The same clause further notes that the use of this provision is “calculated to subvert the authority of the City Works Committee and the power of the council.”
Another contract mentioned is the highly controversial metered parking contract. According to the motion “before being signed [the contract] was not laid before the council and said contract did not derive from the tender and procurement procedure as per [the Act]”. Further, among other defects the contract was “described by Central Government as “onerous”, “burdensome”, “ignorant” and “exploitative.”
Duncan used this project to argue that the Town Clerk has “acted outside the interests of the citizens of Georgetown and has shown a total disregard for the Act which adumbrates the role of the Town Clerk and sets the latter as the supreme decision making body at the municipal level for the City of Georgetown”.
He reminded of a request from APNU+AFC Councillor Gregory Fraser for the “minutes showing where the former council is alleged to have agreed to the Metered Parking System” to be laid before the current council. That request was made in September of last year and is still to yield a response.
In the motion, Duncan included this request as one of “several” made of the Town Clerk for specific information relating to the business of council which have had no responses.
He also drew attention to King’s decision to remove vendors from the Stabroek Market and Robb Street areas in both 2016 and 2017 “without the authorization of council” and action which “brought great distress and hardship on said vendors and which saw Central Government intervening” while reiterating that vendors ought to be treated with “sensitivity”.
Additional arguments made against King’s competence are the “untimely and inaccurate” reporting of the general finances of the City under his stewardship; failure to properly account for $300 million in Central Government funds to the Auditor General over a period of two years; chronic late payments of staff and the failure to remit deductions of tax and social security payments to relevant agencies as well as the “lease” of Farnum Ground and the attempt to convert the Bel Air Playground into residential homes.
The motion argues that when considered together, these “careless and reckless actions” executed in the face of guidance to the contrary from Council “are calculated to have irreparable damage to the image and goodwill of City Hall and the coalition government at local government”.
In light of this, Duncan stated that he is exercising the responsibility placed on every councillor to “ensure that the municipality is managed in a professional and competent manner by a qualified Town Clerk” in seeking that the motion be moved and accepted.
Meanwhile, King’s first response to the motion was to criticize the manner in which it was filed. Duncan submitted the motion to the office of the Town Clerk just after 3 pm and released it to members of the media an hour later.
His decision to make the content of the motion public was deemed “unethical” by King.
King told Council yesterday that “even before I had a chance to look at the motion it was already shared with members of the press… I just want to bring this to your attention that I just received that motion from councillor Duncan and that unethically with emphasis on the word unethically it was shared with the press.”
He continued to stress that long before councillors had a chance to look at or decide on the motion it iwa in the public domain. He stated that he wished for the councillors to know where members of the media received the motion from when they read about it in today’s newspapers.
King made reference to a letter sent to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green supposedly from several council officers in which Duncan has been accused of “misconduct”
According to the Town Clerk the law provides for councillors to be sanctioned for misconduct and Duncan’s action yesterday “is a misconduct.
“Long before you have a chance to look at the motion and long before the Town Clerk has a chance to put it on the agenda it is in the public domain. Unless there is a sinister motive, unless there is a hidden agenda I see no reason why such a move would’ve been made by a councillor who should know better,” King bitterly complained.
He went on to accuse the Councillor of leaking all sorts of information including confidential information to the press.
“It is damaging the reputation of council and eroding of public confidence and trust. The councillor is undermining the council of which he is a part. It is unethical and unbecoming of a councillor who should know better,” King vehemently stressed.
As King made his impassioned appeal, APNU+AFC Councillor Andrea Marks remarked that his arguments were unnecessary since “everybody already know about the motion”.
Marks who has also been named in the letter calling out councillors for alleged “misconduct” is another councillor who has been vocal in her disapproval of King’s actions.
Chase-Green however remained unfazed telling King “let not your heart be troubled, we’ll deal with that [the motion] when it comes on the agenda.”