King faces lo­cal gov’t com­mis­sion to an­swer charges from city in­quiry

Stabroek News - - Letters -

Town Clerk Roys­ton King yes­ter­day ap­peared be­fore the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion (LGC) to of­fer a de­fence to find­ings against him, in­clud­ing gross mis­con­duct and abuse of of­fice, stem­ming from the re­cent Com­mis­sion of In­quiry (CoI) into the op­er­a­tions of City Hall.

As part of his rec­om­men­da­tions, re­tired Jus­tice Ce­cil Ken­nard, who con­ducted the in­quiry at the be­hest of the LGC, suggested that King “be brought be­fore a dis­ci­plinary tri­bunal… as …he acted out­side the scope and in­tent of the law on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.” Stabroek News ap­proached King both be­fore and af­ter his ap­pear­ance but he de­clined to com­ment “at this time.”

Ef­forts to reach LGC Chair Mor­timer Mingo also proved fu­tile but Com­mis­sioner Carol Sooba, who was ex­cluded from the meet­ing, ex­plained that the hear­ing was an at­tempt by the com­mis­sion to ad­here to the pre­cepts of nat­u­ral jus­tice.

“All the of­fi­cers charged have a right to a fair hear­ing. Even though they may have ap­peared at the CoI, they still have the right to de­fend them­selves against the charges,” she ex­plained as she left the Com­mis­sion’s Eping Av­enue of­fice.

Sooba and Nor­man Whit­taker, a for­mer Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter, were not present at the meet­ing as the com­mis­sion had voted to have Sooba ex­cluded from the con­sid­er­a­tion of the re­port in its en­tirety.

“The chair­man is of the view that since com­rade Sooba served as Town Clerk for a short pe­riod and be­cause the mat­ter of her dis­missal and ben­e­fits are part of the re­port, she has an in­ter­est and should not be part of the meet­ing. We dis­agreed,” Whit­taker said as they were leav­ing.

In a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view, Sooba stressed that she was pre­pared to re­cuse her­self from the con­sid­er­a­tion of her own is­sue but as a con­sti­tu­tion­ally-ap­pointed mem­ber of the com­mis­sion, she would not re­cuse her­self from the con­sid­er­a­tion of the en­tire re­port.

The re­port in ques­tion specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied as ques­tion­able the man­ner in which King leased lands and awarded con­tracts.

Ken­nard stressed that doc­u­ments pro­vided “in­di­cated that con­tracts were awarded to friends and as­so­ciates of key of­fi­cials of the coun­cil, such as the son of the Mayor, the son of the Chair­man of the Fi­nance Sub-Com­mit­tee, a friend of the son of the mayor, Ind­grid and Brian Chase, who were em­broiled in a land saga with the Town Clerk, and friends of the Town Clerk and the Mayor.”

He also ar­gued that based on a few doc­u­ments pro­vided, the CoI formed the opin­ion that the Town Clerk acted out­side his scope and in breach of his du­ties of an of­fi­cer when he au­tho­rised cer­tain pay­ments to be made to con­trac­tors with­out writ­ten con­tracts.

Fur­ther, he found that the doc­u­ments shown to the CoI by the act­ing City Trea­surer in­di­cated that the Town Clerk was reck­less in grant­ing leases to sev­eral per­sons for be­low fair mar­ket prices.

One such lease was granted to Quick Ship­ping for land which was later found to be owned by gov­ern­ment’s hold­ing com­pany, the Na­tional In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial In­vest­ments Lim­ited. Ken­nard ar­gued that in that case and oth­ers, King rented these lands for low or no fees to busi­ness­men who can af­ford.

“This to my mind is a fun­da­men­tal breach of his duty of care for the coun­cil, par­tic­u­larly given the state of the coun­cil’s fi­nances. This fur­ther war­rants in­ves­ti­ga­tion and I believe the au­di­tors of the State As­set Re­cov­ery Agency should be called in to probe fur­ther the is­su­ing of leases and con­tracts to as­cer­tain whether the Town Clerk and other of­fi­cers are ben­e­fit­ing from perquisite of of­fice,” the com­mis­sioner stressed. At­ten­tion was also drawn to the fact that the coun­cil’s rev­enue and tax col­lect­ing of­fi­cers were com­pletely un­aware of the agree­ments for the leas­ing of the coun­cil’s re­serves as it ap­pears the Town Clerk op­er­ates in iso­la­tion of the coun­cil and be­yond the scope of his Terms of Ref­er­ence.

“He seemed to be do­ing the work of the Trea­surer, En­gi­neer and Hu­man Re­source Man­ager…It also ap­pears that the Town Clerk’s of­fice does most of the work which is to be car­ried out by the Trea­surer’s De­part­ment. The tax col­lect­ing of­fi­cer said that she is not em­pow­ered to speak to de­fault­ing tax­pay­ers, the Town Clerk does this func­tion,” Ken­nard had noted.

While King has ar­gued that he per­forms his func­tion in keep­ing with the Mu­nic­i­pal and Dis­trict Coun­cil’s Act, Ken­nard claimed that he was de­lib­er­ately mis­in­ter­pret­ing the act “as a cover to act out­side of the scru­tiny re­quired.”

Town Clerk Roys­ton King ar­rives for a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing at the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion yes­ter­day. (Photo by Ter­rence Thomp­son)

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