King reigns supreme: Mayor throws out no-confidence motion
…Duncan calls move “a slap in the face of local democracy”
By Lakhram Bhagirat
Monday afternoon was filled with drama in the Chambers of the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown (M&CC) as Mayor Patricia Chase-Green kicked out a motion of no- confidence brought against Town Clerk Royston King at the statutory meeting held then.
Despite admitting to not seeking legal advice, Chase-Green utilised legal advice sought by King to throw out the motion. This motion of no- confidence in King’s abilities was tabled at Council’s last statutory meeting, on February 26, by Alliance
For Change Councillor Sherod Duncan, and it had been seconded by Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikaran.
King took it upon himself to seek the legal advice of former Magistrate Maxwell Edwards, who noted that the Council has no power to discipline the Town Clerk. Rather, it is the mandate of the Local Government Commission to so do.
According to the legal advice, which was seen by this publication, the “motion, if passed in its present form, would be otiose, nugatory, incompetent, and effectual and of no legal effect (an exercise in vain)” for a number of reasons.
One such reason is because, according to the law, “a Town Clerk cannot be disciplined by the City Council, but only by the Local Government Commission of
the LGCA [Local Government Commission Act], which by Ministerial Order (as gazetted) became operations on 23 October 2017.”
As such, the legal advice recommended that Duncan “amend his motion by removing the vote of no-confidence wording”, and for him to allow another Councillor to move for an amendment.
Following the reading of the advice, it was put to a vote for the Council to decide on whether it wanted to accept or disregard the advice. With 15 councillors accepting the advice, it was then adopted, and Duncan was advised to state whether he would like to amend the motion. He responded in the negative.
“I will not change a line, a word, a full stop. I will not amend any of it. Thank you,” Duncan noted.
Following that statement, Duncan said he was quite taken aback that before he could have spoken on his motion, legal advice was read.
The Mayor then asked the Councillor whether he wants to amend his motion, but
her question was met with only silence.
“The motion in its original form would not be allowed. Could I have that ruling be recorded? The motion in its original form would not be allowed, after having the approval and agreement from the majority of the councillors sitting here to accept the legal advice by attorney-at-law and former Magistrate Mr Maxwell Edwards,” Chase-Green ruled.
Slap in the face
In his motion, Duncan cited provisions in the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chap 28:01 that places the responsibility and duty of ensuring that the Municipality is managed in a “professional and competent manner by a qualified Town Clerk,” on councillors. He noted that is was based on that provision that his vote of no confidence against King stemmed.
The motion stated that King has acted outside the interests of the citizens of Georgetown and has shown gross disrespect for the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chap 28:01. Duncan cited several instances of the Town Clerk’s disregard for Chap 28:01.
Following the ruling, both Duncan and Jaikran asked to be excused from the meeting
Duncan explained that the fact that King is allowed to sit in on a meeting to discuss his ineptitude and to bring legal advice to state that it cannot be discussed is “incredible.”
“I find that very surprising — that legal advice would be accepted from the husband of a sitting councillor on a motion that has not been heard, which was placed on the agenda, but the legal advice is heard first (in order) to shut down the motion. I find that very bizarre, and it is a slap in the face of local democracy,” he said.
Responding to the advice that the Council does not have the authority to discipline the Town Clerk, Duncan said his motion did not call for any disciplinary action; rather, it expressed his lack of confidence in King’s abilities to manage the capital city.
“A no-confidence motion is what it says: you have no confidence in the Town Clerk. The motion never called for his dismissal, it never called for his suspension; it is plainly stating that you have no confidence because of his performance on the job; that is all. By the very nature of it, we called for no disciplinary action in the motion,” Duncan noted.
He has since indicated that he would be seeking legal advice before proceeding further.
The kicking out of Duncan’s motion has also signalled a divide between the Coalition partners, since most of the APNU councillors were heard disagreeing with the contents of the Motion.