Letters & Opinion

The Mayor is saying all the right things, but… City Council Making Illegality The New Normal In Castries

By Stephen Lester Prescott
Image of Mayor Peterson Francis [PHOTO: Rochelle Gonzales]

I must commend the media-savviness of the current Castries City Mayor, who has done remarkably well to become even more popular than the Prime Minister — or any other Minister of Government, for that matter — in a short space of time.

In fact, the funding of the temporary reopening of the Walcott House was a good stroke of genius by Mayor Francis.

I noted recently that he had published his priorities for 2018 — another positive innovative approach – in which he highlighted the following: revenue generation, beautification, development and security of the city, vendor registration, parking terminals, vehicle clamping, vending zones, transformation of Banannes Bay and mobile patrols.

These are all welcome initiatives. However, they must all be done within the confines of the law.

Kudos aside, I must also inform the Mayor that he should not try to perform these magical tricks without the proper legislative authority in place.

Here’s why.
I have been advised that the enactment of the Constituency Council Act of 2012 caused the repeal of the (a) Local Authorities Ordinance, Cap. 242 of the Revised Laws of Saint Lucia 1957; (b) Castries Corporation Act, No. 22 of 1967; and (c) Castries Corporation (Termination of Council) (Repeal) Act, No. 4 of 1982.

This, I am also advised, effectively meant that all the power previously enshrined in law for the Mayor and his Council to regulate vending, increase revenue and maintain public infrastructure automatically disappeared.

I have also been advised that most of the activities of the Mayor and his team along these lines over the last 18 months have, therefore, as a consequence of the above, in fact been illegal under law.

As a result of the information availed to me, I was forced to get a copy of the Constituency Council Act of 2012 — and I have to admit that from my layperson’s perspective, there was no section of this Act which provided the Mayor and his Council authority to levy vendor fees, institute parking terminals, undertake development or infrastructure projects or institute city policing with powers of arrest.

As it stands now, in essence, the current Act of 2012 is a toothless legal tiger and anyone can challenge the legal authority of the Castries Mayor because, right now, he has none.

Litigations can now fly high and low…

The ironic thing, though, is that I have also been advised that the Minister Responsible for Local Government and the Mayor have both been advised of the illegality of the CCC’s current activities, but none has yet made a move to remedy this situation.

In fact, according to Section 6 of the Act, the functions of Councils include: “(a) to assist with the delivery of services to constituents; (b) to make recommendations to the Minister on programmes and projects which will benefit constituencies; (c) to carry out activities designated by the Ministry on behalf of the residents of a constituency; (d) to identify and prioritize the needs of constituencies based on supporting data; (e) to serve as the liaison between constituents and the Ministry; (f) to refer constituents requiring services in a constituency to the most appropriate Government agency that provides the services required; (g) to build relevant databases with respect to a constituency in collaboration with other government departments; and (h) to raise revenue in a manner provided by Parliament to finance the delivery of services to constituents.”

A further examination of Section 24 regarding finances reveals the lack of authority of the Council to act unilaterally, as it says “ the expenses of a Council are to be defrayed out of — (a) such amounts as may be allocated annually for special purposes by Parliament for the use and operations of the Council; (b) money received by way of gifts, grants or donations; (c) money becoming payable to or vested in the Council; (d) money raised by the Council in the manner prescribed by Parliament; (e) money allocated by the Minister responsible for Finance for a specific purpose, program or project.”

I am most definitely no legal expert, but just a preview of these two sections above suggests to me that the real power and authority for the CCC lies within the Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Parliament of St Lucia — and not the Mayor.

I would also bet my last dollar that no Cabinet Conclusion or Parliamentary approval has been obtained for the CCC to be operating as it is now. I would even go further to say there are no regulations under this current 2012 Act, neither have any amendments been made to it.

The Government has a supposedly learned Attorney General in the Cabinet and a team of lawyers in Government, yet none has acted with any haste to remedy this illegality at the CCC.

If the Mayor has indeed received special legal powers by the Cabinet and or Parliament, why has this not been made public?

If the powers of the Commissioner of Police, as enshrined in law, were extended to the Mayor, shouldn’t the public be informed?

I mean, it’s bad enough that the City Council continues to receive four million dollars ($4,000,000) annually and has not submitted audited statements to the Minister of Finance or Parliament in over fourteen years. And that recently the CCC (formerly Town Board) sold shares held in LUCELEC from the 1950s while simultaneously expanding the staff expenditure….guess we can only guess where the money from the shares went.

The disturbing thing is no one is accounting for our tax dollars at the CCC – yes, dear readers, our tax dollars — and that is an indictment on both administrations.

According to what I have been told, the last administration left investments and savings of close to five million dollars ($5,000,000) at the CCC, including 16.33 % LUCELEC shares, a guaranteed profit margin for years for CCC, yet no one knows what the status of the finances is or why these shares were sold.

But what is even more worrying now is when the CCC is “illegally” raising revenue and constituting its own City Army Patrol, or making its own laws, all without any accountability.

Yet the Minister of Local Government, a former public servant who is well versed with accounting procedures, remains deafeningly silent and continues to allow the blatant breach of the law by the CCC.

I noted recently that she “wants” to improve how Councils function, yet she has been in office for 18 months and has chosen to do nothing in that regard.

I recall vividly the media stories when the Labour Administration undertook consultations to develop a new Local Authorities Bill to provide a legal authority for Councils to manage with things like public infrastructure, vending, revenue generation.

Why did she shelve the new legislation that was developed to “legalize” Council functions?

The UWP has this body of work available to them, so why does this administration continue to make illegality the norm of the day?

But then, should we be surprised? This administration continues to distort history and virtually sell lies.

For example, the Prime Minister and Mayor laud their efforts at renovating the city market. Yet, they refuse to acknowledge and chose instead to totally ignore the efforts of the previous Mayor and her team in securing the World Bank-funded OECS tourism competitiveness project. The truth is that this is exactly the same initiative that Mayor Francis is reaping the benefits from now, as some of the remedial works to the market structure had already been commenced under the previous Mayor.

Unlike Mayor Francis, however, Madam Mayor Lewis didn’t maximize the State funds to hire media consultants to make her the most viable Castries Central candidate for the next election.

Like I said above, the Mayor is being heard saying all the right things. However, the City Council he heads seems to be doing everything to make illegality the new normal in Castries.

Ah then, but as we all know, all this can only happen in Sweet St. Lucia!

1 Comment

  1. That’s papishow. A labour that’s talking nonsense. I am from Central Castries and this is the 1st Mayor to really fix our concerns in many years. 1st time in 16years she Ave Maria School passed fire drills. To hell with all this legal talk. We the people need help. The Mayor has been helping us significantly. Bravo Mr. Mayor. Continue the work. I am praying for you. We want more.

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