Councillors facing charges should not run in elections, says Munroe
With three of its councillors currently before the courts on criminal charges, and another referred to the director of public prosecutions for a ruling, the governing People's National Party (PNP) yesterday indicated it would not be rushing to remove those persons as standard-bearers in the now-due local government elections.
"The fact that someone is charged should not bar them from running for the People's National Party. There is a process to determine that," Paul Burke, the party's general secretary, told The Gleaner.
Burke's comments follow a media release from the party which indicated that Shernet Haughton, councillor for the Green Island division in the Hanover Parish Council, is to be summoned to a special meeting of the party's Integrity Commission.
"The Integrity Commission will be mandated to provide a report to the executive no later than April 20, 2015. That report will form part of the process going forward to determine the specific disciplinary action that may be required, including whether or not Comrade Haughton will be deemed eligible to ever contest any election on a People's National Party ticket," the party said.
Professor Trevor Munroe, head of the National Integrity Action Limited, said the Integrity Commission of the PNP should recommend that the four councillors not face the electorate in upcoming elections.
"The Integrity Commission of the People's National Party should investigate, as they have indicated in the instance related to Haughton, and require those persons not to stand for election until, if it is so, the court clears them of any wrongdoing," Munroe told The Gleaner.
time to clear names
Responding to whether it was fair to require people to step aside unless they have been found, by the court, to have committed an offence, Munroe said, "For persons to be free to clear their names and also not be tainted with a possible conviction while standing for election, they should be asked to withdraw until their names are cleared."
In a special report tabled in Parliament last week, the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) cited instances of nepotism, favouritism, and conflict of interest in the recommendation for the award of government contracts to relatives and persons affiliated with Haughton while she was mayor of Lucea.
The OCG said 22 contracts, with a cumulative value of $3.7 million, were awarded by the Hanover Parish Council to relatives and persons affiliated with the former mayor.
The PNP said that it accepts that "there are moral principles and issues of ethical conduct which are central to the findings" of the report.
In January, the St Thomas police charged councillor for the Morant Bay division, Rohan Bryan, with attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Another councillor, Fitzroy Wilson of the Boscobel division in St Mary, was charged with illegal possession of a firearm and assault last August.
Councillor for the Salt Spring division of the St James Parish Council, Sylvan Reid, has been slapped with charges in connection with the death of the son of former Jamaican national football coach, Theodore Whitmore.