City of Hamilton Deputy Mayor Donal Smith has warned members of the public that the Mayor and the City’s Secretary are conducting the municipality’s business without proper authority.
But Government has dismissed the warning saying the City is under its temporary stewardship and the Council can therefore not make any official statements.
In a strongly worded statement issued on Sunday, the Deputy Mayor said that all dealings with the Corporation of Hamilton since December 18 are invalid.
If the Mayor, the Secretary, or any other person purports to speak with the authority of the CoH, you should request confirmation of that authority in the form of a CoH resolution. Without a resolution, or at least the signed authority of the Mayor and two Aldermen, the public can be assured that their dealings with the CoH since 18th December 2014 are invalid.”
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, in a statement responding to the Deputy Mayor’s release, said this afternoon:
Any correspondence purporting to emanate from the CoH is not representative of the Corporation unless it has been signed by the COO or me.”
If Council members wish to make releases to the press in their own names, that is their prerogative, but given the numerous allegations by Council members made against each other, it is ridiculous indeed for anyone to be speaking to the press about anything to do with internal governance issues.
“That said, I strongly urge all of the Council to refrain from making comments to the press. It does nothing but further damage the reputation of the City and the existing Council.”
The Minister said he could not make any substantive response to the Deputy Mayor’s release because the matter is before the courts.
Smith’s statement added that Bermuda’s central Government is acting dictatorially in its handling of the Corporation of Hamilton.
It confirmed our report that seven City of Hamilton councillors are supportive of court action challenging the law governing the island’s municipalities.
And it comes just one week after the Government exercised its powers under the law to take over the affairs of the municipality.
In justifying his decision to take over stewardship of the Corporation last week, Minister Fahy indicated that a minority of councillors favoured the action which he described as a waste of taxpayer’s money.
The councillors contend that the Minister’s actions were aimed at stopping the case.
We should all be concerned about the dictatorial nature of this Government. It doesn’t bode well for any of Bermuda when a Government would go to any length to prevent the courts making a determination about the constitutionality of any law, especially laws which clearly attack the sanctity of private land ownership and freedom to contract,” Deputy Mayor Smith said in Sunday’s statement.
Minister Fahy announced the takeover just days before the initial hearing of the case on Thursday. That hearing was dominated by arguments over who was authorised to represent the Corporation.
Lawyer Alan Dunch, said he was taking instructions from the Minister and that the Corporation wanted to discontinue the case.
But Eugene Johnston, who had been engaged by the Corporation, argued that he remained its legal representation for the action. The case continues.
The lengths the Government would go are clear by their approach in the current case,” the Deputy Mayor continued.
“Instead of arguing that the laws they passed are constitutional, they have decided it is best to overrun the CoH, attack its attorneys, and assume control of the case for itself.
“In these efforts, the Government has enlisted the support of the Mayor, Councillor Lawrence Scott, and the Secretary. In combination, they have attempted to use another law firm to oust the CoH’s attorneys from the case, have made unmeritorious complaints to the Bar Council against our attorney, and have prevented the Council conducting legitimate business.”
Johnston’s J2 Chambers was engaged by the Council to challenge aspects of the laws governing the municipalities as unconstitutional. Alternatively, it is argued that the way in which the Minister has exercised his powers under the law is unconstitutional.
The Members remain of the view that the current legal challenge is in the short- and long-term best interest of the residents and ratepayers of the City. While the Government may not agree, it should recognise that it does not have to,” says Smith.
The statement goes on to claim that the Government’s actions are motivated by the Corporation’s decision to enter into a development deal with someone the Government “would not have chosen”.
That appears to be a reference to the Council’s controversial decision to award waterfront development rights to Michael MacLean’s Allied Development Partners. Last year, Government pushed through legislation voiding the deal, and is now engaged in arbitration proceedings to determine ADP’s compensation.
Common Councillor Lawrence Scott who with Mayor Outerbridge is supportive of the Minister, responded:
This is nothing more than a last ditch effort by the Deputy to appear in public as credible…
“Nothing he does will extricate him from the self inflicted cement encasings he has built around himself.”
Mayor Outerbridge, in a statement of his own, echoed the Minister’s contention that his Deputy’s statement is not officially authorised, adding that it contains a number of “inaccuracies” and breaches the code of ethics and conduct.
Unfortunately this has been an ongoing challenge for this Council. While I would like to give my side of the events, this matter is before the courts and I am bound to make no comment out of respect to the Chief Justice Kawaley and the legal due process.”
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