Chief Justice Roxane George has ruled that the Minister of Communities’ decision to terminate the employment of Linden Town Clerk Jonellor Bowen was unlawful, as she was not allowed a hearing prior to her termination, and no justification was provided for her dismissal.
While the court ruled in favour of Bowen in this regard, however, the request for the applicant’s reinstatement to the position was not granted.
Justice George did order that Bowen be paid benefits once her services are lawfully terminated as well as costs by the State amounting to $50,000.
The court’s ruling was made on May 25th.
The application, filed by attorneys Mark Conway and Charles Ramson Jr on Bowen’s behalf, had requested that the decision made by Minister Ronald Bulkan to revoke their client’s appointment be quashed as it was “unlawful, ultra vires, arbitrary, contrary to and breaches the principles of natural justice;” that the Local Government Commission (LGC) be prevented from appointing a Linden Town Clerk until the matter was determined; for the Chairman of that Commission to prove to the court why the order should not be granted; and for the Commission to reinstate Bowen as Town Clerk given the unlawfulness of her dismissal.
As of yesterday, correspondence was sent to the LGC by Ramson informing it of the position taken by the court.
“Though no Order was made to reinstate Ms Bowen as Town Clerk, the quashing of the decision to terminate her employment as Town Clerk by the Minister of Communities effectively returns her as the current substantive Town Clerk of Linden Mayor and Town Council, since, to date, no appointment has been made to fill that position,” the letter, directed to the LGC Chairman Mortimer Mingo stated.
“The Local Government Commission may, however, decide that it may now wish to terminate Ms Bowen’s employment as Town Clerk but should that course of action be adopted by the Commission, then Ms Bowen ought lawfully to receive a fair hearing and a reason(s) given therefore,” the correspondence added.
It was further noted that because the court ordered that Bowen be paid benefits upon the lawful termination of her services, the date from which that would take effect would be May 25, the day the order was granted, rather than in 2017, when she was unlawfully dismissed.
Bulkan on March 23rd, 2017, and in the absence of a LGC, took a decision to revoke the appointment of Bowen.
The Linden Town Council on July 27th, 2016, had passed a no-confidence motion against Bowen. That was the third such motion brought against her and the second by the then 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 Minister 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 Councils 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 1st and September 19th, 2016, the commission, led by Mingo, had 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.
Bowen, however, returned to her post on March 1st, 2017, as the Ministry of Communities’ Permanent Secretary, Emile McGarrell, had chosen not to have her reassigned.
In a letter to the Mayor of Linden, McGarrell had noted 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. Rather, he had directed that Bowen be reinstated.