Portmore's acting mayor in breach of Municipalities Act

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

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THE government has tabled a Bill in the House of Representatives seeking to validate official acts performed by Councillor Leon Thomas (Hellshire), who has been acting as mayor of the Portmore municipality since October, 2013.

However, its failure to get opposition's support for the Bill to be debated and passed in the House means that, based on its own timelines, Thomas has no authority to act as mayor beyond yesterday

Thomas' continued performance as mayor of the municipality has raised a number of legal issues in the community, primarily arising from the fact that the Municipalities Act does not allow anyone to act as Mayor of Portmore beyond a six-month period which, according to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development ended yesterday.

The Bill, which was brought to the House of Representatives, yesterday, by the local government minister Noel Arscott would have validated the actions taken by Thomas and the Portmore Municipal Council since this year, "in good faith", and indemnify them against any legal action taken for breaching the law.

It also included amendments which would have allowed Thomas and the Portmore Municipal Council to continue to perform their duties until new elections are held.

The vacancy in the mayor's Parlour was created by the death of former mayor George Lee last September. Thomas started acting as mayor last October, but his appointment was only entered in the minutes of the Portmore Council on January 8, this year, which is the date on which the six-month acting period begins, according to the ministry.

The ministry was hoping that the Bill could have been tabled and passed, validating any actions performed by Councillor Thomas over the six-month period between January 8 and July 8, as well as any actions taken by the Council since April 8. However, after Opposition members of Parliament objected, on the basis that they needed time to digest the contents of the Bill, the debate was postponed.

The Bill is likely to be debated next week. But, in the meantime, it confirms that Councillor Thomas has been acting as mayor of Portmore in breach of the Municipalities Act, at least since yesterday, when the ministry says his six-month acting period expired.




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