Former Town Clerk Royston King’s dismissal was reversed by the High Court on Friday, paving the way for him to be reinstated at the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC).
King had challenged a decision by the Local Government Commission (LGC) to fire him back in January for gross misconduct after a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) had recommended criminal charges against him.
However, in a ruling on Friday morning, High Court Judge, Justice Simone Ramlall found that the former Town Clerk was unlawfully dismissed. She also ruled that the CoI in its entirety was unlawfully established hence all of its decisions and findings are null, void and of no effect.
This includes King’s dismissal, which was based on the findings and recommendations of the probe.
According to the Judge, the Commission is only permitted under the Local Government Commission Act to delegate its powers within the Local Government system and not investigative bodies outside such as the CoI that was set up to look into the operations of City Hall.
The 2018 CoI was conducted by ret’d Justice Cecil Kennard, who found King guilty of gross misconduct, abuse of office, and misappropriation of funds. He had also stated that King performed the duties of treasurer and other officers of the Council, which were not his designated duties.
Prior to his dismissal, King was sent on administrative leave on September 21, 2018, to facilitate the inquiry.
The CoI report concluded that King leased lands to Quick Shipping Incorporated at Lombard Street, which is owned by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). Throughout that time, the company argued, payments of $625,000 were made on three occasions but there were only receipts at the Council for two disbursements.
King appeared before the one-man Commission after being subpoenaed and positioned that he was “unaware” or couldn’t “recall” most of the incidents.
Moreover, the management of Giftland Mall had also informed that King had a special arrangement between City Hall and the enterprise, whereby he would waive taxes.
MCG Investments Inc Consultant, Ray Hugh represented the owner of the mall, Roy Beepat, and exposed that a meeting was convened between the duo whereby it was agreed that all rates and taxes, including penalties and interests, would be waived completely for the years 2015 and 2016.
Giftland Mall would only be required to pay a sum of $11,467,500 after the interests and penalties would have been waived. This was after a letter was issued, stating that the mall owed $44,255,183 to the municipality.
King reportedly issued a letter sometime after, stating that the agreement “no longer stood” because of the lapse of time and “certain circumstances”.
The former Town Clerk admitted that he did attend the meeting, but only at the behest of the Finance Sub-Committee, which thought of it as the best way of obtaining whatever sum was owed. King also refuted claims about the waiving of outstanding rates and taxes.
In light of these findings, King appeared before the Local Government Commission to answer to the findings of the report and was also requested to present dialogue on other matters. However, his refusal to discuss the accusations which were brought against him triggered a decision by the Commission to dismiss him with immediate effect.
Meanwhile, in his court document, King had asked for a series of orders including the reinstatement of his benefits, which his lawyer, Attorney Patrice Henry, said he will have to be paid.
According to his lawyer, King will now have to be reinstated but as per his status quo prior to his termination, he will remain on administrative leave.
The attorney told Guyana Times that because King is almost at the age of statutory retirement, his accumulative leave is sufficient to take him to that period.
“So Mr King would not return to the job officially given his age. Mr King would just be paid off,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the former Town Clerk told reporters after the ruling that he feels vindicated.
“I’m very happy. I have always exercised great faith in the judicial system. Today justice has been done and I have been vindicated,” King stated.