Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
…Mayor accuses her of being a puppet of PPP, taking political directives
By Lisa Hamilton
Some 700 staff attached to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) have faced a delay in their wages and salary due to tensions which continue at the City Council between the Town Clerk (ag), Candace Nelson, Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine and the majority of Councillors.
In an interview with the newspaper, the Mayor opined that the challenges could have all been avoided if Nelson had the best interest of the Council at heart and if she did not allow herself to be manipulated by the Local Government Commission. On August 25, Nelson announced to the media through a press release that, over the next few days, the provision of certain essentials municipal services to local communities may be disrupted as a result of an anticipated delay in payment of wages and salaries to the Council’s employees.
The blame was put on the Mayor. It was explained in the release that, upon her appointment, Nelson wrote to Republic Bank, where the Council has its accounts, and requested the necessary and corresponding changes to the signatures of the Council’s accounts.
However, as reported previously, there is a rift in the relationship between Nelson, the Mayor and Councilors based on her appointment by Chairman of the Local Government Commission, Julius Faerber. Narine and Councilors believe the appointment is illegal.
Aware of the change, the Mayor wrote to the Bank instructing that it undo the changes made by Nelson whose appointment is yet to be determined by the Court as legal. The Mayor told the newspaper that Nelson also did not take the necessary steps to legally make the change at the Bank. “Ms. Nelson wrote the Bank illegally to change the signatory. The [Municipal and District Councils] Act (28:01) Section 151 states very clearly that the signatory can only be approved by the Council and the minutes have to be produced to the Bank. Again, Ms. Nelson has acted and went ahead a created an illegal seal and used that seal on Council’s official letterhead which is fraud. Section 37 says the Council shall have a common seal and shall be approved by the Council,” Narine explained.
As such, the Bank reverted to the use of the signatures of Assistant Town Clerk, Sherry Jerrick and City Treasurer (ag) John Douglas, who is on vacation leave. In her press release, Nelson said that the Mayor’s act was “unprecedented” as it is the administration that has the statutory responsibility to communicate with the Bank and related institutions. “Neither the Mayor nor any Councillor is a signatory to the accounts of the City Council. The Act, Chap 28:01, does not confer on the Mayor as an individual the authority to write and instruct the Bank or any institution for that matter,” she contended.
A NEW SIGNATORY
One current signatory to the Bank is acting Deputy Town Clerk, Julian Orgista, however, he has refused to sign the cheques for the workers according to the Mayor. “I spoke with him to sign the cheques for the workers so that they can get paid until this matter is resolved. He subsequently sent a letter to me stating that he received, on August 9, 2021, a letter in which the Interim Town Clerk, Ms. Candace Nelson instructed him that he must not sign any documents on behalf of the Town Council and the Town Clerk Secretariat,” the Mayor said.
He noted that Orgista was willing to sign the cheques to facilitate the payment but he is fearful of the actions the Local Government Commission could take against him.
As such, a new signatory was ultimately put forward at a Council meeting on August 23, 2021.
At that meeting, Nelson walked out after it was made clear to her that the Mayor, as well as several other Councillors, would not include her in the proceedings, acknowledge her presence or note whatever she said within the minutes. When she left, it was decided that Solid Waste Director, Walter Narine would take her place. “The [Municipal and District Councils] Act (28:01) states if the Council has made a decision the Council can direct any officer to execute any duties of the Council and Mr. Narine took that duty,” the Mayor explained.
However, Nelson returned about 30 minutes later and instructed the minutes-taker to leave the meeting but the Council moved a motion that if the minutes-taker left the meeting disciplinary actions would be taken for dereliction of duty. The minutes-taker left but the meeting was recorded. It was decided then that Council would select a new signatory and another Councillor as optional, which would also serve to prevent such an incident from reoccurring whereby no authorised person was available to sign the cheques.
Subsequently, the Council passed a motion with all Councillors voting in favour to make Walter Narine a signatory to the account. The letter of the corresponding minutes/recording was sent to the Bank and the Council now awaits their approval. It should also be noted that upon becoming aware of the situation, Jerrick, who is on sick leave, wrote to the Mayor on August 24, informing him that she would not be able to sign cheques currently because of her illness.
The Mayor said: “As soon as the Bank approves that signatory [of Walter Narine], we will get a second signatory for the cheques and we will be able to process salaries… some 700 staff will be able to get the money they worked for because school will be reopening, they have families to maintain, bills to pay and that is very worrisome.”
The Mayor has also met with the President of the Guyana Local Government Officer Union, Wendy DeCunha, to discuss the possibility of M&CC staff receiving their salary before the next month. It was decided that the Union and the Council would work collaboratively in the best interest of employees.
COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED
The Mayor said that if Nelson had good intentions for the Council, she would have allowed Orgista to sign the cheques. “This was unnecessary because Ms. Nelson’s matter is before the Court and she received two court documents and, if we’re aware of that, Ms. Nelson should withdraw herself from the chair and let the Deputy Town Clerk carry on the business of the City Council so that the people’s business in the city can be able to move forward in a positive direction but Ms. Nelson chose not to do so but to be, maybe, power-drunk and wanted to do things her way,” the Mayor said.
The Mayor said that he is aware that Nelson has since written to the Minister of Local Government, Nigel Dharamlall blaming him [the Mayor] for the incident. However, he reminded that he is the Chair of the Council which collectively makes its decision.
He also pointed out that it appears that Nelson is merely awaiting the directive of political individuals to act rather than using her own prerogative. He said the majority of the Councillors do no appreciate what is taking place at the M&CC. Furthermore, the Mayor has recently been carbon copied to a letter inviting Nelson and Walter Narine to a private meeting with the Local Government Secretariat on Monday. “If the Commission will continue to do this, therefore you don’t need a Council. This letter ought to go to the Council and the Council would give direction on what must happen…what you’re going to do is like what you did to the Deputy Town Clerk and the acting Chief Constable, you called them to a meeting a few weeks ago and tell them, ‘look, y’all have to give this girl support’. That is a threat,” the Mayor said.
He cautioned that if the Local Government Commission continues in this manner, the people of Georgetown will ultimately suffer. He said: “The Commission is showing its hands in a real dictatorship which is not good for the city.”
The Village Voice News has reached out to Nelson via email and phone for an interview but has been unsuccessful.