There were testy exchanges at the monthly meeting of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation on Thursday, as Councillor for the Hayes Division, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Scean Barnswell, called for May Pen Mayor, Winston Maragh, to resign as President of the Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica (ALGAJ).
Barnswell is adamant that Maragh is not doing enough to get discussions going relative to the public sector compensation review for parish councillors.
But Maragh is maintaining that Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, has indicated that the councillors will have to wait until all the public sector compensation packages are dealt with for other civil servants.
Within the circumstances, the municipal corporation meeting on Thursday became a hotbed of contention, as councillors did not hold back their feelings on the issue.
Councillor of the York Town Division, the PNP’s Uphell Purcell, shot straight from the hips in declaring that, “councillors have families too”.
He said his colleagues are “out there every day, going up and down, and I beg of anybody, be it in the public or private sector, or wherever, to tell me that the salary of a councillor can allow them to do their work and their duties and responsibilities and take care of their families.”
In response, a seemingly annoyed Maragh reiterated that, “The finance minister already said you have to wait!
“We have to wait!” he asserted further.
However, Barnswell appeared to be incensed by the response from the chairman of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation and the ALGAJ president.
“For two years, three years now, it is the same story and yuh need to stop (being) president of ALGAJ. Is either you duh yuh work or yuh resign from the position,” the upset councillor contended.
But Maragh hit back by indicating that, “I am not going to allow you to tell me what to do”.
The back-and-forth continued between the two, with Barnswell urging Maragh to do his job, to which the latter responded that, “You have always been misleading us”.
Barnswell responded: “This has nothing to do with you being mayor of May Pen. This has to do with you being ALGAJ president, don’t forget!”
The irate councillor reminded Maragh that as a member of ALGAJ, he (Barnswell) has a right to ensure that the rights of his fellow councillors are being represented.
Scean Barnswell… “Is either you duh yuh work or yuh resign from the position”.
“… And you’re not doing so at this time, and I will say to you, Mr president, you need to step aside, to allow somebody else who has councillors’ interest at heart to carry on and do the work as president of ALGAJ,” Barnswell told Maragh.
Interestingly, the PNP councillor was not finished rebuking Maragh for his stewardship of ALGAJ.
“Mr Chairman, there is no formal documentation, there is no correspondence between the minister of finance and ALGAJ,” asserted Barnswell, himself a former May Pen Mayor and ALGAJ President.
He further claimed that, “There is nothing on record to say to us that this is what we are asking for”.
Councillor for the Aenon Town Division, the PNP’s Delroy Dawson, agreed with Barnswell by insisting that Maragh has not presented any written documentation of the Finance Ministry’s response to ALGAJ.
“You have never come with a document enuh, Mr Chairman, from the minister enuh… You’ve never come with minutes and say, ‘see the minutes here, this is what we discussed’,” stated Dawson.
Amid the contention, Maragh stood his ground.
“The minister of finance and (the) public service says he will not deal with us until he has completed all the negotiations with the civil service,” he stated.
Said one unidentifiable councillor in response: “This is unbelievable”.
Maragh reiterated, too, that Members of Parliament (MPs) would also have to wait on their compensation review packages like the parish councillors.
It was not the first time that Maragh has faced criticisms for his perceived lack of advocacy for councillors relative to the public sector compensation review.
In December at the St Catherine Municipal Corporation meeting, Councillor for the Waterford Division, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Fenley Douglas, did not mince words in calling for an increase in salary for parish councillors.
In laying out his argument, he pointed to councillors being paid less than $150,000 per month.
According to him, the cries of both PNP and JLP councillors relative to the lack of benefits have not been addressed, and they feel they have no representation, even in regards to maintaining a “little old car”.
He added that “it makes no sense that we have a body representing us and they don’t know where councillors stand as it relates to the new salary classification.”