Lowenfield renewed Personal Assistant’s contract, others while on his way out
The renewal of Duarte Hetsberger’s contract as the personal assistant to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) has raised eyebrows at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), particularly since it was done in breach of the terms of that very contract.
The News Room was reliably informed that Hetsberger’s contract was renewed following an evaluation done in June 2021 by the disgraced former CEO Keith Lowenfield while his continued employment at the Commission was uncertain and he was in fact on his way out.
Both Lowenfield and Hetsberger were being investigated by the police as part of their probe into allegations of fraud following the March 02, 2020, General and Regional Elections.
Hetsberger is a lieutenant in the Guyana Defence Force but was seconded to GECOM in 2014 on a one-year contract and then, after an amendment, on a ten-year contract that would be subject to renewal every three years.
When contacted on Wednesday by the News Room, GECOM Commissioner Bibi Shadick explained that the end date for the three-year contract secured by Hetsberger was December 8, 2021.
The contract itself stipulates that before any renewal the employee must write and indicate three months in advance their intention to continue in the position.
Shadick contends that no such letter was written and she believes it was intentional that the contract was renewed well in advance of its end date and the three-month period for discussions about a renewal.
She explained that the renewal was done during the one-week grace period Lowenfiled was granted in June before he was sent on leave ahead of his dismissal.
“The CEO had to know he was on the way out, he knew that… this is his Personal Assistant and he renewed his contract. Who this man will be Personal Assistant to?” the GECOM Commissioner said in brief comments via telephone.
Shadick also believes that this instance is not isolated and there are more persons who could have similarly had their contracts renewed by Lowenfield before he was dismissed.
“When I went to school my Biology Teacher told us when one you see one cockroach in the day there are 10 in the night.
“I am sure there are more, I don’t know who they are yet because I’m asking for information on lots of people and it’s like you pulling teeth. You have to keep digging and asking questions.
“Too many things are hidden in that place,” Shadick said.
The employment of Melanie Marshall who was contracted as Registration Officer is also up for discussion.
The News Room understands that Marshall was placed by Lowenfield to act as the Voter Registration Manager when the substantive office holder left just over two years ago.
While the position of the Personal Assistant to the CEO does not need the approval of the seven-member Commission, the position of Voter Registration Manager is one of the senior positions at GECOM that does.
Shadick said it was strange that the Human Resource Manager has not advertised this position as vacant although Marshall’s contract for her substantive position should have ended in July 2020.
The GECOM Commissioner said she later learnt that Marshall was reportedly evaluated by Lowenfield who recommended her contract be renewed and that she is confirmed in the position of Voter Registration Manager.
Shadick now questions the legitimacy of such a move since Marshall only had a contract for Registration Officer and not Voter Registration Manager.
She wants Marshall to revert to her substantive position and the vacancy for Voter Registration Manager advertised.
GECOM has several other senior vacancies to fill, which according to Commissioners, the delay in doing so is severely affecting the work of GECOM.