Lack of confidence in Commission led to resignation – fmr GECOM Legal Officer

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Excellence Dazzell

Former Legal Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Attorney-at-Law Excellence Dazzell, has clarified that her resignation earlier this year was as a result of her loss of confidence in the seven-member Commission, and it had nothing to do with a breach of her contract, which she insists was not the case.

Government-nominated GECOM Commissioner Bibi Shadick on Wednesday revealed that Dazzell and Chief Accountant Joseph Eastman had resigned after they were both found to be in breach of their contracts by conducting private practice, among other things.

Shadick had stated that the then GECOM Legal Officer had a “very active private practice” while being employed at GECOM, thus violating her contract. As such, the Commissioner disclosed that she had moved a motion several months ago for Dazzell to be removed as Legal Officer.

However, Dazzell proceeded on her annual vacation leave earlier this year, during which she tendered her resignation in February.

But according to the lawyer on Thursday, her resignation had nothing to do with her private practice.

“The reason why I left is because, based on everything that transpired, I lost confidence in the (GECOM) Commission, and I tendered my resignation. So they did not send me on leave, and I did not resign because I breached my contract. I resigned because the Commission is unfair and unethical, and I could not work any longer with them,” Dazzell told this publication on Thursday.

In fact, this was indicated in a correspondence to the GECOM Chairperson, (retired) Justice Claudette Singh, who had written the then legal officer asking her to show cause why she should not be disciplined for allegedly breaching her contract.

Attorney Dazzell insisted in her response that she did not violate the terms of her contract, adding that not only did she receive permission from the former GECOM Chairman Justice James Patterson to continue, but had also done some work for him.

She contended that based on the conduct of the Elections Commission, the contract of employment is a formality, and the real contract is evinced by the behaviour of the Commission.

According to Dazzell, while her contract states that she is to act according to the instructions and directions of the Commission through the Chief Elections Officer, when she commenced duty in 2018, she was told to report directly to the Chairman.

“I questioned this line of authority based on my contract, and even highlighted this fact on the agency’s organogram. Notwithstanding my queries, I was told that I am to report to the Chairman, and I did, and do presently. Thus, although my contract stated that I am to report to the Chief Elections Officer, it was not so in practice,” she indicated.

The attorney further stated that she informed Justice Singh approximately one month after joining GECOM that she was scheduled to appear in court for the decision in a private matter, and asked then Chairman, Patterson, for permission to attend, which was given in writing.

She further revealed that subsequently, the then Chairman had some matters that were not GECOM-related that he wished to be attended to, one of which was before the Land Court for a church.

“[Patterson] asked me to do the matter. I asked him for a letter as was done previously, but he said that it was not necessary… On another occasion, the Chairman desired to purchase a property. He introduced me to the vendor and gave me a file and asked me to do it,” the lawyer stated.

Dazzell continued in the correspondence that after some time, Patterson become suspicious that she was somehow politically affiliated with Shadick, who was then an Opposition-nominated commissioner, and so “…The Chairman stopped calling on me to do any work, whether GECOM-related or not. I continued to do the work of the Commission (mostly minutes taking) and I continued to do other legal work with the clearest of conscience, as evinced by the open placement of my signature on legal matters.”

Nevertheless, Dazzell posited on Thursday, despite Justice Singh determining in a GECOM meeting that she was not in breach of her contract, she felt the seven-member GECOM Commission failed in its duty, hence her decision to resign, although there is one year remaining on her contract as the agency’s Legal Officer.