Court orders Yallahs Division

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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ANOTHER by-election is on the cards following a Supreme Court ruling yesterday which resulted in the seat for the Yallahs Division becoming vacant after Councillor Dean Jones was adjudged ineligible to sit in the St Thomas Municipal Corporation.

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes yesterday declared the election of Jones null and void after finding that Jones was still a public servant at the time of the local government elections in November 2016.

Justice Sykes, in his ruling on the election petition filed by People's National Party's (PNP) Constantine Bogle, also ordered that a by-election be called in the shortest possible time.

Jones, who had won the seat on a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ticket, was taken to court by his opponent, Bogle, on the grounds that at the time of the poll he was not a resident of the division and that he was also a public servant, both of which are breaches of electoral laws.

But Justice Sykes found that there was not enough evidence before the court to make a ruling on whether Jones resided in the division at the time of the election.

However, he ruled that Jones was a public employee on the date of the elections.

“I have no reason to doubt Mrs Morgan Rodgers, that she received the letter from Mr Jones in December and had sent it off to the Court Management Services,” said the chief judge.

Janet Morgan Rogers, administrator of the Coroner's Court in Kingston, had testified during the hearing last July that Jones had visited her office on December 12 of last year and given her a resignation letter dated October 25.

But Jones, in his defence, had argued that he had given her the letter from October 25, but she had forgotten about it and remembered it on December 12, when he returned to her officer for a document and asked her about the letter.

However, Justice Sykes said in his ruling yesterday that he was convinced that Morgan Rodgers was telling the truth because it is her usual practice to sign and stamp documents that she receives, and Jones' letter was signed and stamped on December 12.

In the meantime, Bogle's lawyer, Bert Samuels, yesterday asked the judge to make an order for Jones to pay his client's legal fees and also for him to return all the monies he had collected as a councillor, but the judge told him to put his request in writing.

Bogle yesterday labelled the ruling a victory for the PNP, but said he was not overjoyed with the judgement.

“I am honestly not fully impressed by the verdict as it's either you're guilty or you're not guilty, and that is why the Parliament of the day sees it fit to have amendment of the law and acclamation, which means that you're either guilty or not guilty,” Bogle said. “The whole thing, I will be discussing it with counsel, but I think I will be appealing it. I want to go to the highest level; I am not going to stop here.

“There is [a] law name acclamation that was not discussed, and I am not going to settle for this,” he added.

Bogle's position was supported by the PNP.

PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson, in a release, said that the party is consulting its legal team to determine whether to file an appeal against the decision of the court that a by-election be called, as the party is of the view that Jones was never properly nominated.

“Mr Jones deliberately and intentionally misled the EOJ (Electoral Office of Jamaica) in his declaration on his nomination form and, therefore, only one candidate, Constantine Bogle, was properly nominated,” Robinson said.

Additionally, Samuels, who said that Jones “tried to pull a 'fast one' on the electorate and on the system”, said that he will be writing to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for it to determine whether or not charges should be laid against Jones.

However, deputy leader of the JLP and Member of Parliament for St Thomas Western James Robertson, who had accompanied Jones yesterday, said the governing JLP is happy with the ruling and is confident that Jones will retain the seat when the by-election is called.

“We are happy to go back to the people in a democratic process. Mr Jones, in the time that he sat there, has been an exemplary servant of the people and so I can predict, right now, [that] it will be three-one margin when we run back as soon as possible.

“Mr Jones has been a very exemplary representative of the people and the area is very happy with him — the young people, the older ones… and we are proud of all of his work in the division,” Robertson said.

According to Robertson, the date that Jones wanted to use for his resignation is left up to interpretation, but it is a very complicated matter that does no harm to Jones.

“Mr Jones was properly nominated in the eyes of the people and had won a decisive victory and will continue to be a winner,” he added.

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