Rose Hall Town Clerk resigns after controversy

-local gov’t body approves replacement

The Local Government Commission (LGC) has approved Rose Hall’s Market Clerk to act as Town Clerk (TC) after the acting Town Clerk appointed by its council resigned.

“The media kept reporting on this back and forth and I didn’t want to be a political football so I resigned,” the former TC, who described his one month on the job as “excellent”, told Stabroek News

Speaking with this newspaper yesterday the TC, who asked not to be named, explained that he applied for an advertised post and was invited to an interview. One month later he was informed that he was the successful candidate.

“I was employed on a three-month contract in an acting position…I didn’t know all of this conflict would’ve arrived from this decision. I have to answer to my family, including my wife and two young children, and can’t put them in the middle of this. I also can’t operate in a stressful environment…Berbice doesn’t have a lot of jobs and I was very happy to be able to use my degree but I couldn’t like the media attention,” he further explained.

The TC became the casualty of a power play between the LGC and the Mayor and Town Council of Rose Hall.  The demand from the LGC that his appointment be rescinded was its first public exercise of the powers it wields under the LGC Act.

According to the LGC, in appointing the TC the council exceeded the authority given to it to recruit candidates for the post.

“…the Rose Hall Town Council has clearly acted outside of its remit, and has been instructed by letter from the Commission to rescind the hiring of any person so appointed to fill the vacant position of Town Clerk of that municipality, and this vacancy will only be filled upon the consideration and written approval of the Commissioners of the Local Government Commission of Guyana as provided for by law,” the LGC announced by way of a statement on April 20.

Mayor Vijay Kumar Ramoo was however not prepared to budge. He defended the appointment as a matter of urgency arguing that the LGC had failed to respond in a timely manner to a request from the council. Rose Hall had written to the LGC in February asking for assistance failing which the TC was employed after a March 21 vote of the entire council.

Ramoo stressed that the TC was hired via a majority vote from the council and only a vote by two-thirds of the council in favour of the LGC’s request would lead to a removal of the Town Clerk.

“I am not acting unilaterally. It was a council decision and in keeping with local government regulations it must be rescinded by a two-thirds majority,” Ramoo had stated.

When Chairman of the LGC Mortimer Mingo sought to seek an audience with the council on April 24, he was denied.

According to Ramoo, “he wrote asking to meet the council and I asked for either the full commission to come or a representative from both sides. The commission is politically appointed and I wanted both parties [APNU+AFC and the PPP/C] represented. He came with the secretary and met with the deputy Mayor. He didn’t meet me or the full council.”

Mingo’s request followed a visit from President of the Guyana Association of Municipalities (GAM) Carwyn Holland who told councillors that they should put people first and become “[au fait] with the new dispensation involving the Local Government Commission (LGC) and stay within the confines of the law.”  At the time, he was speaking about the appointment of a Town Clerk by the council.

Ramoo who was informed beforehand of Holland’s visit was absent from that meeting but expressed outrage that he was bold enough to reprimand the council for it actions.

“He was disrespectful to this council and I intend to rebut him publicly and in writing. He asked to visit as a courtesy and in my absence dominated our statutory meeting for two hours so he could deliver a political speech. That is unacceptable,” Ramoo had told Stabroek News.

However, the LGC argued that it was Ramoo who was being disrespectful in his disregarding of a direct lawful directive via a March 21 letter that the appointment be rescinded.

As a witness to this struggle, the Town Clerk noted that it “was too much” and resigned with effect from April 26, 2018.

Ramoo informed the LGC via letter dated April 30 of this resignation and the LGC has stated that “in keeping with the commission’s instructions the Rose Hall Town Council has removed the individual [who] was purported to have been hired as Town Clerk.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, the LGC added that in a letter dated May 2 the LGC has permitted the council to allow the Market Clerk to perform the duties of Town Clerk until such time as a Town Clerk is appointed by the Local Government Commission in keeping with Section 19 of the Local Government Commission Act 2013 (delegation of powers).

The LGC reiterated that it has delegated to the Town Council and all other local government organs, the authority of recruitment (advertising, shortlisting and interviewing) for staff.

This is, however, conditional, with the organs being required to inform the LGC of such vacancies before engaging in the recruitment procedure and consequent recommendation for appointment by the Commission.

The local government organs are also required to ensure that an officer of the Local Government Commission is present during the shortlisting and interviewing process. The officer would be an observer of the procedure and would not offer any advice or suggestion unless so directed by the Local Government Commission. (Thandeka Percival)

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