GECOM’s legal officer, chief accountant found in breach of contract – commissioner

0

The Legal Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Attorney Excellence Dazzell, and Chief Accountant Joseph Eastman have resigned after they were found to be in breach of their contracts, among other things. 

This is according to Government-nominated Commissioner Bibi Shadick, who on Wednesday said the issues relating to their employment were discussed on separate occasions this year at the level of GECOM’s seven-member Commission. 

Shadick told this publication that Eastman surprisingly had a 10-year contract which had expired, and he applied to have it renewed. But according to the Government-nominated Commissioner, she had issues with his performance as the Chief Accountant. 

“Reading the Auditor General’s report and seeing all the financial irregularities that were taking place at GECOM and all the queries that were made by the Auditor General, I didn’t think that he was doing his job properly. I had a problem with that, so when [his contract renewal] came up, I said, ‘No, we can’t approve’,” she related. 

Among the findings in the AG report that Commissioner Shadick cited was the fact that Eastman would give “bizarre” responses to queries made by the Auditor General, and that the financial statements for the elections body were not up to date.

“If that was your job, you’re supposed to do it properly, especially if you’re coming up for contract renewal,” she contended. 

Nevertheless, during the time his renewal was being considered, Shadick said, an advertisement appeared in the newspaper for a Tax Consultancy firm operating on Camp Street, Georgetown, which listed Eastman’s personal cellular phone number as the contact. 

When confronted, the then Chief Accountant admitted to the GECOM Commission that he had been working all the time for the namesake company, which his father founded. Shadick said Eastman had claimed that he got approval from former GECOM Chief Elections Officer Gocool Boodoo to conduct private practice, which the Commissioner contended is a breach of this contract. 

But she noted that there was nothing in writing to confirm this. As such, the matter was scheduled to be dealt with at Tuesday’s meeting when the seven-member Commission met to discuss the employment of embattled Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, his deputy Roxanne Myers, and Returning Officer for Region Four Clairmont Mingo. 

However, at the beginning of the meeting, they were informed that Eastman has tendered his resignation. 

Similar circumstances had also surrounding the Legal Officer’s resignation. Shadick explained that she was somewhat aware that Attorney Dazzell was practising privately despite being employed at GECOM. However, after being informed earlier this year that Dazzell had a “very active private practice”, she moved a motion at the Commission’s level for her to be moved. 

According to the Government-nominated Commissioner, private practice was a breach of the contract the lawyer had with GECOM. 

“She was asked to answer to the allegations that were made, and she accepted that she was practising [privately]… but that the former Chairman [James Patterson] had given her permission. But, again, there is nothing in writing, and it was never discussed with the Commission,” the Commissioner posited.  

But according to Shadick, who was on the panel that interviewed Dazzell for the job, what was more egregious was the fact that the legal officer failed to represent GECOM at any time it was involved in litigation, particularly during last years’ five-month post-electoral impasse.

“In all those times when GECOM was being listed as a respondent in all those matters that were being filed, and GECOM would have to enter an appearance, she would not stand up and enter an appearance for GECOM, and there were some other things…so I moved a motion for her to be relieved of her duties,” she noted. 

But Dazzell had some leave accumulated and had taken them in May, during which she resigned.  

Commissioner Shadick further sought to clarify that she was not going around looking to remove persons, adding that it was purely coincidental that these two cases came up consecutively. 

Nonetheless, she underscored the need for the posts of Legal Officer and Chief Accountant be filled as soon as possible, given their importance within GECOM. 

Only Tuesday, the seven-member GECOM Commission unanimously decided to send the trio of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo – all of whom are currently before the courts facing charges relating to electoral fraud – on leave. 

This publication’s attempts to get a comment from both Dazzell and Eastman proved futile.