Councillor Malcolm Ferreira’s absence from the City Council’s statutory meetings over the past four months became the subject of Monday’s meeting after he informed the Mayor of his unavailability to attend meetings during what is expected to be the remainder of the current council’s life.
Reading a letter addressed to her, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green told the council that Ferreira has indicated that he would not be able to attend any statutory meetings for the months of September and October. Ferreira, who is the constituency councillor of Charlestown/ Albouystown, did not provide a reason for the length of his absence.
The meeting was subsequently informed that Ferreira has not attended any meetings since May 14th, prompting councillors to question whether his absence would disqualify him from continuing to retain his seat.
Article 46 of the Municipal and District Councils Act directs that any councillor who, without first having obtained a leave of absence, absents themselves from three consecutive ordinary meetings of the council or from any meeting of council for a period of two months, whichever period is longer, shall become disqualified from continuing to be a councillor.
“This afternoon I read from a letter where he asked to be excused from today’s statutory, the 24th and all statutory meetings in October… Councillor Ferreira has constantly been sending in letters of excuses and as the law states you should receive permission prior to proceeding on leave,” Chase-Green said.
“This shows he doesn’t have an interest in this council and his constituents, in my opinion, because he hasn’t been attending meetings of this council and if he did it’s only been one and two,” the mayor added.
“While I would accept the leave of absence for the month of September, it is going beyond us because he has been absent since May and we cannot continue in this manner,” Chase- Green further said, while indicating that if he does not attend a meeting in October, the city’s administration will have to inform Ferreira that he is no longer a sitting member the council.
The Mayor noted that the last statutory meeting for the council is likely to be held in October as local government elections are slated for November 12th.
Deputy Mayor Akeem Peter suggested that regulations be established to curb absenteeism at council meetings. He argued that “this is a matter of councillors taking advantage of delivering an excuse—we might need to look at internal rules because the law is quite vague.”
Peter said that every governing institution requires persons functioning in the institution to provide a reason for an absence.
“You just can’t say we would be absent. You are representing your constituents and if you are not here you cannot represent them. I think we should look at this very seriously…,”Peter further argued.
Councillor Heston Bostwick attempted to make an excuse for Ferreira’s absence but Chase-Green noted that he took on the responsibility of representing his constituents. “The councillor has decided that maybe his other duties have taken precedence over his council duties,” she suggested.
Bostwick indicated that Ferreira has been engaged in “governmental matters and I would think that is what is keeping him away….”