Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Inside the Municipal Corporation | St Ann MC monthly meeting ends in chaos

Published:Saturday | January 12, 2019 | 12:00 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer


The monthly meeting of the St Ann Municipal Corporation ended in chaos shortly before noon on Thursday amid claims and counterclaims that funds were misappropriated during December.

People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Beecher Town division, Ian Bell, and chairman of the corporation and mayor, Michael Belnavis, the Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Ocho Rios division, were involved in a heated exchange, leading to Belnavis adjourning the meeting prematurely.

Belnavis has subsequently called for the PNP to take disciplinary action against Bell, claiming the councillor disrespected the chairman, among other things.

Minority leader Winston Brown, who is the PNP councillor for the Borobridge division, told The Gleaner that Bell had asked the chairman for a report on expenditures from the small infrastructure programme and the special grant for repairs, and the report was not forthcoming. This triggered exchanges that led to a heated debate.

"Councillor Bell asked questions about how the funds were disbursed, if each member of parliament (MP) received their funds, and the chairman of the council refused from answering him," Brown alleged.

"Based on our knowledge, we understand that the funds were spent otherwise than how it was asked to be done by the minister (Desmond McKenzie, Minister of local government and community development), so we need some clarity. He was there asking for the information when the meeting got heated and the chairman of the council adjourned the meeting prematurely."

In his explanation, Bell said he made enquiries about money that should have been spent on the instruction of the MP for South East St Ann, Lisa Hanna, and the answers were not forthcoming.

"I requested the document that was signed by the mayor as to how that special fund was disbursed and how it was allocated. the document was not forthcoming. I asked that the meeting be held back a little so the document could come. this request was not granted. I further asked that the document as it relates to $1.5 million from property tax being spent in one division, the same division was allocated $2.5 million from infrastructure and $1 million from special grant for repairs during the month of December alone, and that is in addition to the rest of money that all of us get equally. I asked for the document to be produced to the money being spent in December, and the document was not forthcoming."

"So then I made a comment and they asked me to withdraw the comment, so I said to them, 'I will withdraw the comment if the documents come and I am wrong'. The mayor adjourned the meeting prematurely."

Bell declined to say what the comments were.

But speaking to The Gleaner after the adjournment, Belnavis alleged that Bell's comments inolved Bell accusing him of being lying and thieving.

Belnavis said that it was shortly after a discussion at the meeting over money being spent in the Calderwood division that Bell began to hurl accusations.

"I told him if he did not sit down I would bring disciplinary action against him, and he refused. I told him I'm going to suspend the meeting because he was shouting, and he also disrespected the chair by accusing me of lying and so on.

To prevent any sort of physical altercation, I decided the prudent thing to do at the time was to suspend the meeting."

Belnavis dismissed Bell's accusations of wrongdoing, saying all spending was done with transparency. He further called for action to be taken against Bell.