Town Clerk can­not act with­out city coun­cil’s knowl­edge

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Than­deka Per­ci­val

Al­though Town Clerk Roys­ton King has re­peat­edly claimed that the law grants him the power to act with­out first be­ing directed by the City Coun­cil, on Fri­day re­tired judge Ce­cil Ken­nard in­formed him that he has mis­in­ter­preted the leg­is­la­tion.

In tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry (CoI) into the op­er­a­tions of City Hall, King noted that a 40-year lease signed with Quick Ship­ping to oc­cupy land on the Lom­bard Street fore­shore was never brought to the at­ten­tion of coun­cil.

He claimed that there ex­ists a pol­icy at coun­cil that once a par­cel of land has al­ready been leased once, the mat­ter does not need to be re­turned to the full coun­cil.

Chal­lenged by CoI Chair­man Ken­nard that the lease signed in 2016 was be­tween new par­ties and for new terms, which should’ve re­quired that coun­cil be up­dated, King ar­gued that in the ca­pac­ity of chief ad­min­is­tra­tor he is tasked with the ef­fi­cient use of coun­cil prop­erty and that the Sixth Sched­ule of the Mu­nic­i­pal and Dis­trict Coun­cils Act in con­junc­tion with Sec­tion 321 (2) gave him the author­ity to sign on coun­cil’s be­half with­out in­form­ing those who sit at the horse­shoe ta­ble.

Ken­nard, how­ever, dis­agreed with King’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law, not­ing that while the sec­tions grant him per­mis­sion to sign on be­half of the coun­cil, they do not grant him per­mis­sion to be sole ne­go­tia­tor and sig­na­tory and with­out the city coun­cil’s knowl­edge.

In de­fence of King, his at­tor­ney, Maxwell Ed­wards, ar­gued that King likely mis­in­ter­preted the law. Ac­cord­ing to Ed­wards, who is a for­mer mag­is­trate, even judges mis­in­ter­pret the law, much less King, who has no le­gal train­ing.

Ed­wards also claimed that the Na­tional In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial In­vest­ments Lim­ited (NICIL) is fraud­u­lently claim­ing the Lom­bard Street land. NICIL had pre­vi­ously told the CoI that the land is trans­ported to Guyana Na­tional En­gi­neer­ing Cor­po­ra­tion Lim­ited (GNEC) via Land Trans­port #525 of 1985.

Ari­anne McLean, in­house at­tor­ney for NICIL, tes­ti­fied that GNEC ac­quired the prop­erty in 1985 af­ter pur­chas­ing it from the Guyana Mar­ket­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (GMC). Sub­se­quent to this ac­qui­si­tion, NICIL ac­quired the prop­erty when GNEC was dis­solved, and all of its as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties were handed over to NICIL via a vest­ing or­der, dated May 30th, 2002. The vest­ing or­der, McLean main­tained, listed the prop­erty as the first as­set on the vest­ing or­der.

How­ever, King and Ed­wards ar­gued that though they have per­son­ally searched and caused the staff of Par­lia­ment Of­fice to search for the or­der vest­ing own­er­ship of the piece of land at Lom­bard and Sus­sex streets in the GMC they could find none.

As a re­sult, King has sub­mit­ted to the CoI that it has been con­cluded that “the rea­son­able and ir­re­sistible in­fer­ence is that no no­tice was pub­lished and ac­cord­ingly that prop­erty never vested in or passed to GMC which there­fore was in­ca­pable of pass­ing trans­port­ing to any­one.”

King fur­ther pro­vided the com­mis­sion with copies of a trans­port, No. 2803 of 1966, which shows that the then Mayor and Town Coun­cil of Ge­orge­town had full and ab­so­lute ti­tle to the ri­par­ian lands abut­ting and con­tigu­ous to the fore­shore at Mud­flat 1 Lom­bard Street.

Ad­di­tion­ally, King pro­vided a copy of a lease, dated 1958, be­tween the then Mayor and Town Coun­cil of Ge­orge­town and the Colony of Bri­tish Guiana, which granted the colony use of the land for the pur­pose of car­ry­ing on a Fish Cen­tre for 10 years at a rental of 24 cents per an­num.

He also noted that in 1995, a lease agree­ment was signed be­tween M&CC and the Ge­orge­town and In­ter­na­tional Fish­ing In­vest­ment Com­pany Lim­ited. A copy of this lease, filed as No. 132/99 with the Deeds Registry, was also pro­vided to the com­mis­sion.

As the pub­lic hear­ings of the CoI closed fol­low­ing King’s tes­ti­mony on Fri­day, le­gal coun­sel for the CoI Sher­win Ben­jamin noted that the com­mis­sion would work to es­tab­lish own­er­ship of the prop­erty through a de­tailed record search of the land registry and Par­lia­ment Of­fice.

No-con­fi­dence mo­tion

Mean­while, on the mat­ter of the no-con­fi­dence mo­tion brought against him by coun­cil­lor Sherod

Dun­can, King noted that he wanted “in­de­pen­dent le­gal ad­vice” and there­fore en­gaged Ed­wards, who had not worked for him or coun­cil be­fore that time.

Dun­can’s mo­tion was dis­al­lowed when a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors voted to ac­cept Ed­wards’ le­gal ad­vice that the pol­icy-mak­ing body has no right to de­clare a lack of con­fi­dence in its chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer.

Ed­wards ar­gued that a vote of no-con­fi­dence amounts to a dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against the Town Clerk, a func­tion which is out­side the pow­ers of the coun­cil.

“I ad­vise that if the mo­tion was passed in its cur­rent form it would be… in­ef­fec­tual, of no le­gal ef­fect. The mo­tion for a vote of no-con­fi­dence in the Town Clerk is in sub­stance the le­gal test as to what it amounts to in law and in in­tent. The dis­ci­plinary mea­sure or ac­tion con­not­ing as it does, in­ter alia, some rep­ri­mand or ad­verse con­se­quences,” Mayor Pa­tri­cia ChaseGreen had read for those present at the March 11th meet­ing.

The ad­vice re­peat­edly noted that the power to dis­ci­pline the Town Clerk lay with the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion (LGC). The LGC is un­der the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion Act of 2013 “re­spon­si­ble for em­ploy­ment, trans­fer, dis­ci­pline and dis­missal of staff and ap­proval of re­mu­ner­a­tion, su­per­an­nu­a­tion, train­ing, leave and pro­mo­tion of staff”.

The de­ci­sion by coun­cil to ac­cept this opin­ion has come in for sharp crit­i­cism from both the pub­lic and Ken­nard, who told Mayor Chase-Green she should’ve sought an­other opin­ion.

Also crit­i­cised was King’s de­ci­sion to sit in on the meet­ing where the ad­vice was pre­sented and ac­cepted. Ken­nard ar­gued on Fri­day that do­ing so was in poor taste.

Roys­ton King

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