Chaos at Mayor and City Council

Dear Editor,
It is extraordinary that the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown can find money to hire a lawyer to represent acting Town Clerk Ms Sherry Jerrick at the Local Government Commission, but do not have money to do basic sanitation work in the city, and to pay workers’ deductions at the National Insurance Scheme and the Guyana Revenue Authority.
A few nights ago, Mayor Ubraj Narine appeared on HGTV Nightly News and represented the position taken by the Council against the Local Government Commission’s request that the Acting Town Clerk show cause why she should not be disciplined for professional negligence, for not preparing and submitting the Council’s Assets Register.
In that newscast, the Mayor said words to the effect that the Commission has no authority to deal with such matters as the Council’s Assets Register, and that it is the Council’s Assets Register and, as such, the Commission could not blame the Town Clerk for not producing it.
However, two things are glaringly wrong with the Mayor’s comments. First, this request for the Council’s Assets Register was made by the Local Government Commission chaired by Mr. Mortimer Mingo in 2019. At that time, Mrs Sharon Harry- Munroe was the Acting Town Clerk of the Council. She was unable to produce that document in the requested time, and as a result of that and other alleged shortcomings, that Commission, after having her on a long and embarrassing period of administrative leave, terminated her service.
The records of the Council will show that this very Mayor Narine, who is now publicly challenging the Commission and threatening to go to court, did not say to that Commission chaired by Mr Mingo in 2019 that it had no authority to request the Assets Register. And Mrs. Munroe was never even asked about, let alone afforded, legal representation by the Council. Why? Because they wanted her off the job.
Not too long after the termination of her service, the Council attempted to recruit, through an inadequate and shambolic process, hand-picked individuals to fill certain vacancies, including the position of the Town Clerk. They failed.
In the instant case involving Ms Jerrick, not only is the Council attempting to say to the Commission that it does not have the authority, but it has instructed the acting Town Clerk to take a lawyer of her choice. They did that at the last statutory meeting, held on Monday July 12, 2021, without any regard to the cost. It is an unfortunate and unfair action of the Council. While citizens have to wade through storm water in certain parts of the city whenever it rains, and contend with garbage almost everywhere in Georgetown, the Mayor found the money to hire a lawyer to deal with this matter. While roofs on markets are like sieves during rainfall, the only abattoir in this city is a public health hazard; and while the Mayoral Complex is in a state of disrepair, the Mayor can proudly hire a lawyer to fight the Commission. It is unbelievable.
Worse, in this period of COVID-19, the Council has taken a decision to make hundreds of workers (all women, some single parents) from its Day Care Service, and General Works Department (able-bodied men and women) redundant because it claimed that it can’t find the money to keep them on staff. But the Council can find hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer to represent one officer in what is basically a purely administrative matter.
It is disgusting, to say the least, and scandalous at worst. How is it that the Council does not have money to assist staff, but has enough to hire lawyers to defend matters that do not add value to the service they are providing to the public (they hired lawyers to get the current City Engineer dismissed, they lost the case. They hired lawyers to get hand-picked individuals to fill top posts, that matter is before the courts).
This register was requested since 2019. Up until now, in 2021, nothing has been sent to the Commission. One must wonder why the fuss and spare-no-expense attitude by the Mayor to protect a particular officer, while he and a small clique of Councillors attempted to have others dismissed, including the current City Engineer.
One must also wonder what effect this is having on the morale of other officers and workers at the Georgetown City Council.
Stunningly, the Mayor of Guyana’s capital city appears not to know basic things about how the Georgetown municipality operates. Two examples: The Mayor seems to be unaware that a substantial part of the responsibility of the Town Clerk, who is the Chief Administrator of the Council and secretary to all the committees of the Council, is concerned with archives, records and documents.
In Chap 28:01, it says that the Clerk “…shall have the charge and custody of, and be responsible for, all charts, deeds, records and other documents belonging to the Council, which shall be kept as the Council may direct”.
The question is: If it is not the responsibility of the Town Clerk to have an Assets Register for the Council, as the Mayor is claiming, then he must say whose responsibility it is. Who should the Commission look to for such an important document? The Act is very clear.
The next example is the utterance by the Mayor about the lack of authority of the Commission to request certain documents. It is true that the Commission does not have authority over elected Councillors; the Mayor is a councillor who has been elected chairman of the Council. But the Commission, in a real way, has powers over all human resources and related matters.
However, according to Act 2013, Under functions of the Commission, “Section 13 (I) The Commission shall have power to deal with all matters relating to the regulation and staffing of local government organs, including employment and dismissal of staff, and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs, and in particular shall – (a) monitor, and review the performance and implementation of policies of all local government organs, including policies of taxation and protection of the environment: (b) monitor, evaluate and make recommendations on policies, procedures and practices of all local government organs in order to promote effective local governance…”
Also, Under Miscellaneous, at 28: “The Commission may require a local government organ to furnish to it at intervals as may be specified and at other times as the Commission may require a detailed report of finances and activities in the form and containing the particulars as the Commission may specify.” And at 27: “It shall be the duty of every local government organ to co-operate with the Commission, its officers and employees in the discharge of their functions. and for that purpose, to comply with all requests made or directions given by the Commission or its officers and employees.”
In the face of a deteriorating city and poor municipal services, the Mayor is constantly involved in public verbal battles with the Government, other bodies, and even some officers of the Council. Councillors seem unable to do anything about all that is happening at City Hall. It is as if the Council has gone rogue, with no clear sense of direction and purpose.
In this 21st century, citizens continue not only to be embarrassed by the state of the city, but the public health of their communities is being put at risk by a Council that appears leaderless and visionless.

Yours truly,
Anthony Subner