Two St James councillors lose seats

COUNCILLOR for the Salt Spring Division Sylvan Reid wants his day in court after being booted from the St James Municipal Corporation during yesterday’s monthly meeting.

According to minutes of previous meetings of the corporation, Reid and councillor for the Catadupa Division, Gladstone Bent, missed the last three council meetings without asking for a leave of absence. This allows for them to be disqualified from serving on the council, as pointed out by councillor for the Montego South Eastern Division, Charles Sinclair.

But Reid has made it clear he will not leave without a fight.

“Whatever move, whatever vote, whatever happens here today, Councillor Reid will still be councillor for Salt Spring Division. So tek it to the court, tek it to the field, and Councillor Reid will be the councillor for Salt Spring Division,” charged Reid.

The meeting at the Montego Bay Civic Centre had earlier erupted in shrieks of amazement when Sinclair moved the motion, during which he stressed that his move to have both men booted was based on an Act passed during a People’s National Party (PNP) Administration.

Both Reid and Bent are members of the PNP.

Sinclair represents the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

“Mr Chairman, I just wish to point out at this time that there is a stranger among us,” Sinclair began. “We at the St James Municipal Corporation are a creature of statute, and we cannot be guided by anything else other than the statute that has been passed in Jamaica’s Parliament.

“In February 17 of 2016, the governor general of Jamaica signed the Local Governance Act, which came into being under the previous [PNP] Administration, so nobody can say that we are making laws as we go along.”

He cited Section 30, which included reference to mayors or councillors who are “absent from three or more consecutive ordinary meetings of the council without the leave of the council” being “disqualified immediately and shall cease to hold the office”.

“We cannot have a person sitting amongst the councillors as a councillor who is no longer a councillor,” said Sinclair.

Acting CEO Bryce Grant then requested a brief recess during which the council’s minutes were examined before Sinclair’s claim about the number of absences was confirmed.

The records showed that both councillors had been absent for the months of March, April and May, and in the case of Councillor Bent it would include June as well, because he was also absent from yesterday’s meeting.

Mayor of Montego Bay Homer Davis called for the passage of Sinclair’s motion, which was seconded by Councillor Arthur Lynch, who represents the JLP in the Montego Bay North Eastern Division.

“If my score is correct, then councillors Reid and Bent were absent from council meetings in March, April and May, and that would be three consecutive meetings. Based on Section 30, sub-section 3, the minutes of the council shall be conclusive evidence as to the attendance of the councillors. So their tenure is up for question. The CEO has checked the minutes and there were no leave of absence requested, and no apologies for absence, so I have no choice but to honour the disqualification,” said Chairman Davis.

This decision means the PNP is now down to only two members in the council. The Salt Spring and Catadupa divisions will now be supervised by Superintendent of Roads and Works, as indicated by the mayor.

PNP councillor for the Granville Division Michael Troupe was dissatisfied with the proceedings and interjected several times to show his disagreement. He told the council that he had made apologies on behalf of Reid at one of the previous meetings being contested.

“Check your records, Mr Mayor, I want you to know that I, personally, apologised for Councillor Reid at the first meeting we had at the Montego Bay Civic Centre [March 2020] because he was sick,” stated Troupe.

Not to be deterred, the mayor responded to his outburst by cautioning him and advising him that he holds him responsible, as the two councillors are a part of his team.

In his defence, Councillor Reid rejected the disqualification and attributed his absence to being ill.

“I should not even be here. I woke up this morning and I should be at the doctor now, because of my stomach, and that is factual. And you will know that in time. Secondly, there were many meetings, and what [Sinclair] said will have to be challenged for sure, as I’m quite not aware of all this,” he said.

“I could not really come, but I find myself at different meetings relating to my division, which tells you; tells the West; and tells him (Sinclair) that my interest is here for the people of Salt Spring Division who elected me to be here, and Councillor Sinclair cannot stop that.”

A telephone call to a number reportedly belonging to Councillor Bent’s was answered by someone who advised that Bent was being seen by a doctor at the time of the call.

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