M&CC staff salaries to be delayed after Mayor intervenes with Bank to control city funds

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The impasse at City Hall is likely to now spill over into services to the city. Despite former Town Clerk Sherry Jerrick being removed from that position by the Local Government Commission (LGC), Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine has now gotten a local bank to revert bank accounts that were changed to again allow Jerrick to access funds.

This was revealed by acting Town Clerk Candace Nelson on Wednesday, who informed that as a result of Narine writing the bank and getting it to retain the old signatures, there may be a disruption in municipal services to local communities.

“This is as a direct result of an anticipated delay in payment of wages and salaries to the Council’s employees. On her appointment to the position of Acting Town Clerk by the Local Government Commission, Ms. Candace Nelson wrote the Republic Bank (the institution where the Council has its accounts) and notified its management of those changes,” Nelson said in a statement to the media.

“In that letter, the Town Clerk requested the necessary and corresponding changes to the signatures of the Council’s accounts. Subsequently, administration was informed, informally, that the Mayor wrote the bank and attempted to instruct its management to retain the old signatures of Ms. Sherry Jerrick, who has been reverted to her substantive position as Assistant Town Clerk, and Mr. John Douglas, City Treasurer (ag) who is on vacation leave, to the accounts,” the acting Town Clerk said.

According to the acting Town Clerk, the Mayor’s actions are “unprecedented”, since the administration of City Hall has the responsibility to interface with the banks and other related financial institutions, not the Council. She explained that neither the Mayor nor any Councillor is a signatory to the accounts of the City Council. Additionally, Nelson pointed out that the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chap 28:01, does not authorise the Mayor to write and instruct the bank, or any institution for that matter.

“However, it does appear that the letter, by the Mayor, caused the bank to sustain the old signatories to the accounts. As a result, to date, new and necessary changes are not reflected in the Council’s accounts. Consequently, administration cannot move forward with the payroll within the agreed time to pay workers of the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown. This would cause a delay in payment of workers’ salaries. This would affect workers’ ability to (perform) their tasks, and disrupt systems to provide services to citizens,” she said.

That, notwithstanding, the acting Town Clerk has informed Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall, as well as the Chairman of the Local Government Commission, Julius Faerber. According to her, the administration is aware that steps are being taken by the Ministry and LGC to resolve this issue in the shortest possible time.

“Also, the Town Clerk has also written to the unions that represent workers and officers of the City Council, (the Guyana Labour Union and the Guyana Local Government Officers Union) on the matter. The Chief Administrative Officer has informed all heads/sectional heads of departments about this pressing issue, and asked them to communicate the facts of the matter to workers attached to their departments,” Nelson said.

It was only on Monday that Nelson walked out of City Hall’s statutory meeting after Mayor Narine indicated that the Council would not recognise or include her in the proceedings.

Nelson had sought to share her input as the Mayor chaired the meeting, to which he responded, “I do not recognise you. Your words can’t be minuted here because the chair don’t recognise you. I don’t recognise you. You would not be recognised by the chair.”

Nelson was appointed by the Local Government Commission, and Jerrick, who served as Town Clerk, was reverted to her previous position. However, the Mayor has since filed legal proceedings before the Chief Justice, challenging Nelson’s appointment. Despite the fact that no interim court order has been granted preventing Nelson from conducting her duties, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Mayor has continued to impede her from doing her job.

At a recent statutory meeting, workers of the Council protested at the Kitty Market in Georgetown, where a statutory meeting was scheduled to be held. However, Councillors voted in favour of Mayor Narine having the meeting adjourned, as their attempts to remove Nelson were unsuccessful.

At a press conference, Faerber had shared some insight into the matter a few weeks ago when he stated that the decision to remove Jerrick was a unanimous one.

“That decision was unanimously voted in favour of, and when I said unanimously, there were seven Commissioners who were present at that time, and all seven of them voted in favour of having Ms Jerrick return to her substantive position. That was the situation that occurred,” he had said.

Faerber had pointed out that the decision to appoint Nelson is in keeping with the authority vested in the Local Government Commission under Sections 12 and 13 of the Local Government Commission Act.

Section 13 (2) states thus: “The Commission shall have power to deal with all matters relating to staffing of Local Government organs, and in particular shall be responsible for employment, transfer, discipline and dismissal of staff.”