–paving way for termination of contracts for Lowenfield, Mingo and Myers
ALMOST 17 months after being accused of attempting to thwart the outcome of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, the country’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield; the Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers; and the District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, are still in the employ of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
In yet another attempt to remove the infamous trio from their posts, the government-nominated GECOM Commissioners have resorted to having their motions for dismissal amended to take into consideration the fact that Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo are all contracted workers whose contracts provide for termination.
This was confirmed by government Commissioner and Attorney-at-Law Bibi Shadick, who explained that when the motions for dismissal were initially filed, she and her colleagues from the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) were not privy to the employment contracts of the three GECOM officials.
“Last week, we got copies of the contracts,” Shadick informed the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday.
She explained that now that the motions have been amended, GECOM has also been presented with the option of terminating the contracts of the three embattled officers.
“We are not removing the option of dismissal; we are doing this as an alternative to say that if the Commission does not find [grounds] to dismiss [Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo], then there is the possibility of terminating their contracts,” Shadick indicated.
She further opined that based on all the evidence that is currently before it, “The Commission can very well choose to dismiss” the trio, who are also facing multiple criminal charges relating to electoral fraud committed last year.
Reflecting on the motions piloted by herself, and PPP/C colleagues Sase Gunraj and Manoj Narayan, Shadick said that the submissions call for Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo to be summarily dismissed, based on the fact that they are statutory officers who were guilty of breaching the law.
Shadick reminded that should the officers be dismissed, they would still be afforded the opportunity of seeking legal recourse, “because there are legal remedies available to them.”
Nonetheless, should GECOM pursue the termination of their contacts instead of having them dismissed, the three officers could still stand to benefit, or, as Shadick termed it, “be rewarded for bad behaviour,” since they could have their contracts terminated, and still be able to capitalise on the payments offered in lieu of notice.
The attorney-at-law noted, however, that once a person’s contract is terminated, their legal options would be significantly limited, since the option is clearly outlined in their contracts, and “an employer cannot be forced into hiring an employee” they do not want to hire.
“At the end of the day, though, our goal is that they [Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo] must not work in the secretariat of GECOM anymore. Either option will achieve that result,” Shadick said.
She reminded the Guyana Chronicle, also, that following the filing of the dismissal motions, Lowenfield had moved to the courts to prevent her and her colleague Sase Gunraj from debating and voting on the issue, since it was the latter who had brought the motion, and she who had seconded it. “That is to be heard on Thursday,” Shadick indicated.
During GECOM’s previous meeting, the opposition-nominated Commissioners had walked out of the engagement in support of Lowenfield’s arguments. On Tuesday, Shadick said that there were attempts to delay the hearing of the motions, on the grounds that the matter was in court.
The former PPP/C minister rubbished Lowenfield’s arguments, referencing the fact that the National Assembly allows a member to move, debate and vote on motions. “That is how it is,” Shadick insisted.
It must be noted, however, that due to the construct of GECOM, which has three nominated commissioners representing each of the two major political parties, the ultimate success of the motions rests on the vote of GECOM’s Chairperson, who, in this case, is Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh.
It was in June, more than a year after the elections, that the PPP/C-nominated commissioners tabled the three motions seeking the “immediate dismissal” of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo.
As it is, Lowenfield is faced with three counts of Misconduct in Public Office, and three counts of Forgery, while Mingo was charged with four counts of Misconduct in Public Office, and Myers with two counts of Misconduct in Public Office.
In addition to Lowenfield, Mingo and Myers, Chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Volda Lawrence; Opposition activist, Carol Joseph; the CEO’s clerks, Michelle Miller and Denise Bob-Cummings; Elections Officer, Shefern February, and Information Technology Officer, Enrique Livan were also charged.
They are all accused of inflating the results of Region Four, Guyana’s largest voting district, to give the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition a majority win at the March 2, 2020 polls, when in fact the PPP/C had won by 15,000 more votes. Based on the events of the 2020 elections, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has insisted that it is not wise for Guyana to have any other elections over which Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo are allowed to preside. It is for this reason that the Head of State has refrained from announcing a date for the country’s Local Government Elections, even though $1.1 billion has already been budgeted in 2021 for this purpose.
“It was put very nicely by Commissioner Narayan today [Tuesday], that it is 17 months since these people behaved badly, and it is not acceptable that we have not been able to rid the Commission of them,” Shadick concluded.