High Court refuses to grant injunction suspending Town Clerk’s appointment
High Court Judge Jo Ann Barlow has refused to grant the Mayor and City Councillors (M&CC) of Georgetown an interim injunction against the Local Government Commission (LGC) suspending a decision of the latter to appoint Candace Nelson as Town Clerk.
In a ruling handed down on Monday, Justice Barlow also dismissed an application filed by the LGC to strike out the M&CC’s claim. Arguing that they were not consulted on Nelson’s appointment and that she is not qualified for the post, the M&CC is contending that her appointment is unlawful.
With the court refusing to grant the injunctive relief, it will now proceed with hearing the substantive application. The M&CC and LGC are being represented by Attorneys-at-Law Teni Housty and CV Satram, respectively. The LGC was granted 14 days from Monday to file its defence.
However, the M&CC was granted seven days to reply if necessary. The matter comes up again on October 6 at 15:00h for Case Management Conference (CMC) at the Demerara High Court.
Satram has countered submissions by the M&CC of Nelson’s appointment being unlawful. According to counsel, the LGC, as a constitutional body, exercised its independent mind to the question of eligibility and suitability when it appointed Nelson to the post of Town Clerk.
But M&CC’s lawyer, Teni Housty, said that no consultations were held with the relevant stakeholders regarding the appointment.
“The context of consultation to which we refer is linked to Section 37 of the Local Government Commission Act. In so far as a decision is being made in relation to the staffing of thousands of Local Government organs, the impact of the decision makes the [M&CC] liable to be consulted,” he had submitted.
The lawyer said that the minutes of previous meetings held by the LGC show that consultations were held in the past concerning the appointment of a Town Clerk. He said, “In the minutes, in their own [LGC] affidavits they have demonstrated a previous practice of consultations. They have highlighted the duty of cooperation that is enshrined in the statute.”
He contended that the M&CC should have an input in the process of identifying a person to serve as Town Clerk. Asked whether this takes away from the independence of the LGC in selecting and appointing a Town Clerk, Housty said, “No please your honour. What it does is adds further strength to their process.”
Last month, the M&CC instituted judicial review proceedings against the LGC challenging its “unilateral” appointment of Nelson. In a Fixed Date Application (FDA), the M&CC submitted that it was not included in consultations on her appointment, and as such, she “is acting without lawful authority,” and continues to disrupt the smooth and efficient functioning of the Council.
The M&CC cited Nelson for taking disruptive actions which pose serious ongoing and continuing breaches that compromise the sanctity of the Council’s operations. She is also being accused of influencing the records of the M&CC’s statutory meetings by deleting matters from minutes of meetings and seeking to dictate the contents of the agenda of later meetings.
Court documents state that she suspended a tendering process that began months before her appointment and has potentially compromised the ability of the M&CC to honour its contractual and other financial obligations. She is also being accused of failing to facilitate a proper handover of the M&CC’s assets.
Unless Nelson is removed, the M&CC said she will further disrupt the Council’s business.
Nelson was appointed after the LGC wrote to then acting Town Clerk Sherry Jerrick and instructed her to return to her substantive position of Assistant Town Clerk, effective July 27. LGC Chairman, Julius Faerber had recently said the decision to remove Jerrick was a unanimous one.
“That decision was unanimously voted in favour of, and when I said unanimously, there were seven Commissioners who were present at that time, and all seven of them voted in favour of having Ms Jerrick return to her substantive position. That was the situation that occurred,” he had told a news conference.
According to Faerber, the decision to appoint Nelson is in keeping with the authority vested in the Local Government Commission under Sections 12 and 13 of the Local Government Commission Act.
Specifically, he pointed to Section 13 (2), which states: “The Commission shall have the power to deal with all matters relating to the staffing of Local Government organs, and in particular shall be responsible for employment, transfer, discipline, and dismissal of staff.”
Nelson left one of the Council’s recent statutory meetings after Mayor Ubraj Narine indicated that the Council would not recognise or include her in the proceedings. Meanwhile, an earlier meeting of the Council was aborted after the Mayor and Councillors protested her appointment and demanded that she leave but Nelson did not budge.