Town Clerk locks Mayor out of office
- forces Councillors to hold meeting in compound
By Zena Henry
The meaning of extraordinary was perfectly exhibited yesterday as City Hall’s Mayor and Councillors sat in the blazing afternoon sun to host their extraordinary Statutory meeting when acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba locked them out of the Council’s Chambers.
The extraordinary meeting was set to deal with three motions, one of which is to remove the acting Town Clerk from her post and another, to remove the Council’s Finance Committee Chairman Junior Garrett.
The Councillors voted unanimously to remove Sooba, the Finance Chairman, and then, to discipline all those who took part in the illegal sale of Easter spots at the seawall two weeks ago.
The Council’s regular statutory meeting was adjourned by Mayor Green last week as the Town Clerk (ag) decided that the meeting was unconstitutional because she was not allowed to say the prayers. She ordered all Council officers to leave the meeting before she walked out. Mayor Green had requested that the Town Clerk call an extraordinary meeting last Friday after what had transpired, but Sooba refused.
Despite her office accepting another letter to convene an extraordinary meeting yesterday, when Councillors arrived at the chamber, they were left lingering as windows and doors were tightly shut. Determined to hold their meeting, Councillors quickly started to set up chairs and desks in the agency’s parking lot, braving the hot afternoon sun. Some Councillors described the development as “madness”. Members of the police force had also visited City Hall, but left after Councillors convened their meeting in the parking lot.
Recognizing the presence of a recording clerk and the Council’s mace, the Mayor and Councillors got the meeting underway after reading out the sections of the Municipal and District Council Act which give them the power to do so. The motion to remove Sooba was forwarded by councilor Hector Stoute and seconded by councilor Randolph Atherley-Waite.
Several councillors spoke of the extent to which Sooba’s actions has reportedly set back the Council, as well as her disrespect to the executive body and the rules that govern the organization. Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green was adamant about Sooba’s disregard for the decisions the Council makes and other acts which she said are sometimes personally beneficial to her.
The councilors mentioned the illegal sale of Mashramani and Easter spots, the firing of Cevon’s Waste management, and a number of disrespectful correspondences to the Mayor and Councillors among other things.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) Royston King was voted in to perform the duties of Town Clerk until the Local Government Commission is put in place.
The motion against the Finance Chairman was brought by councillor Gregory Fraser and seconded by councilor Eon Andrews. They claimed that Garrett has been making decisions unilaterally and capriciously to sign-off payments to expend Council’s money without authorization. They said Garrett along with a PPP councillor Kamala Ross signed off on money that Sooba took without the Council’s permission, while he did the same with over $100,000 to sell spots on Easter day when the Council was not aware. They continued that Garrett refused to place other Councilors’ concerns in the 2014 budget and he had also signed off an improper letter to the bank asking them to release money to be returned to the Japanese government without the matter being brought to the Council. He was also voted out unanimously.
The Councillors later voted to discipline the voted out Town Clerk (ag) and all those who aided her in illegally selling Easter spots. They said that no authorization was given to Sooba by the Council to sell spots.
The Mayor and Councillors later blasted the Local Government Minister for his continued involvement in the affairs of the Council.
Both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor explained that on several occasions an audience has been requested with Minister Norman Whittaker and former Minister Ganga Persaud, but they have refused, “yet they want to run this Council”.
Chase-Green said the minister is disrespectful for telling Councillors to not hold the extraordinary meeting. “I can’t tell the Minister not to call his meetings, I can’t tell him not to go to Cabinet,” she charged.
Minister Whittaker emailed the Mayor over the weekend warning that they should not hold the meeting. Despite Sooba walking out of the last Statutory meeting, he maintained that Councillors should wait until the Town Clerk calls the meeting.
The Councillors said that once the Council’s mase, a recorder of minutes and a quorum are available, the meeting can take place.
“They thought that if they locked us out we can’t have our meeting because once we cast our vote; that is it. They tried to stop us from voting, but it didn’t work,” one councillor explained.