HAVING received the written High Court ruling reversing the January 2019 dismissal of Town Clerk of Georgetown, Royston King, the Local Government Commission (LGC) is preparing to appeal the ruling, maintaining that, based on legal advice, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) it held last year was lawful.
King was fired by the LGC based on a recommendation contained in a report from a CoI into the operations of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC). The CoI was presided over by Chairman, and sole commissioner, Justice (ret’d) Cecil Kennard
Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall, at the Demerara High Court last month, deemed the CoI unlawful and void. LGC Chairman, Mortimer Mingo, confirmed that the LGC voted to appeal and is in the process of seeking legal advice on going about it. “At our statutory meeting, the Commission took the decision that we are going to appeal the matter. We are seeking some advice from some lawyers now as to whether we go to the Full Court or to the Court of Appeal,” Mingo stated.
Mingo said the Commission sought legal advice prior to the setting up of the CoI. “Of course we did. That is why we choose a retired Chancellor, a legal mind; we had legal justification for the CoI, he was employed by the LGC to do that, so at all material time he was acting with the [Local Government] Commission,” Mingo insisted. “We are saying the reason we are appealing is because we acted lawfully based on the advice of our lawyers.”
Based on the Inquiry’s recommendations, King was charged with gross misconduct, abuse of office, recklessness, dishonesty, conspiracy, and misappropriation of funds at the municipality. King, through his lawyer, Maxwell Edwards, initially challenged the legality of the CoI last year October, when King appeared during the proceedings. That challenge was dismissed by Kennard.
In February 2019, King moved to the High Court to challenge his dismissal. Morris-Ramlall, during her ruling, said the LGC unlawfully delegated its investigatory powers to the CoI, which was not part of the LGC or attached to it. Additionally, the judge said the LGC disinvested itself from the CoI when it transferred the investigation and unlawfully delegated its powers.
According to Justice Morris-Ramlall, by doing this, the LCG committed an error of law and the decisions made by the CoI must be quashed. Thus, the setting up of the CoI, the investigation, finding and recommendation is void and unlawful.
The CoI report contained some 31 recommendations. Aside from disciplinary actions for King, the report also recommended disciplinary action for a number of other City Hall officers, including Deputy Town Clerk, Sharon Harry-Munroe; Human Resources Manager, Paulette Braithwaite; City Engineer, Colvern Venture; and the Internal Auditor, Omodele Umojo-Newton.
There was also the recommendation for a forensic audit to be conducted into the finances of City Hall for the period April 1, 2015, to October 31, 2018, as well as the call for criminal charges to be instituted against King. Mingo acknowledged that this latest development will put a pause on moving forward with the recommendations contained in the report compiled from the findings of the CoI, at least as it pertains to disciplinary action against the municipality officers.
“It stands to reason that we will wait on the appeal,” Mingo said.
The forensic audit was started since earlier this year by the Audit Office, and Mingo says the LGC is expected to receive that report shortly.