City Engineer blocks M&CC’s move to fire him
The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) continues to insist that it has the authority to discipline City Engineer, Colvern Venture and plans to boot him out of office at an extraordinary statutory meeting on Monday, but Venture has since secured an order from the court seeking to prevent such actions.
Venture has been unsettled in his office many months now, claiming that Mayor Ubraj Narine seems bent on replacing him with someone more favourable to him, causing Venture to even write to the Local Government Commission (LGC) to lodge a complaint.
The Mayor, on the other hand, has protested the inefficiency of the Engineer’s Department on several occasions which sees very poor services being offered to the public. Venture is maintaining though that it was not the Council who hired him, but a Minister of Local Government.
Commenting on the issue lately, Local Government Minister, Nigel Dharamlall offered that the Mayor has been deliberately targeting staff of the municipality who “does not condone his illegal manifestations.”
Dharamlall offered that only the LGC has administrative and disciplinary authority over staff.
“The Council can recommend, but cannot act to discipline or terminate staff,” he said. In the motion to terminate Venture’s employment this Monday, the City Council is saying that it is empowered to employ officers to carry out the functions of Council pursuant to Sections 74 and 75 of the Municipal and District Council Act Chapter 28:01.
If the motion is passed, the Council wants to give Venture two months’ pay and his benefits in lieu of the notice of termination of his contract, and for Deputy City Engineer, Kenson Boston to be appointed in the position immediately.
Meanwhile, in his complaint to the LGC, Venture said he feels targeted by Mayor Narine.
“It is my considered view that the recent series of utterances in the media by Mr. Narine are part of a wider dubious plan to replace me with someone of the Mayor’s choice.”
Venture also mentioned in the letter to the LGC that public statements by the Mayor are affecting the morale of the entire staff of the City Engineer’s Department.
“His statements are causing friction between and among me, as Head of the department, and other technical staff and other colleagues even beyond the department and the Council.”
On June 27, 2019, Venture wrote to the Mayor about public statements that he had made at statutory meetings, which were subsequently reported in the media. In that letter, Venture said: “Negative statements made by you, Your Worship, have the potentials to facilitate further erosion of public confidence and trust, not only in the City Engineer’s Department, but also in the integrity of the entire council. This, in turn, compromises the work of officers, in the fields, and undermines the authority of the Council.”
The City Engineer pointed out to the Mayor how the City Engineer’s Department does not even have 35 per cent of needed resources to provide the services that fall within its realm.
“Yet, the department continues to be publicly criticized by Your Worship in the face of the fact that officers lack basic tools to complete official assignments.”
He continued: “Within recent times, I feel particularly targeted and victimized by you Mr. Mayor. You continue to wrongfully blame me for things that are neither part of my list of duties nor responsibility.”
Yet again, on September 25, 2019, Venture complained to Town Clerk (ag), Sherry Jerrick about the instance when the Mayor referred to him and two other technical officers in his department as the “three blind mice,” which was published in the media.