By a majority vote of three to one at a meeting on May 3, ABEC resolved to overturn a December 2010 move by the then stand-in ABEC Chairman Ambassador Bruce Goodwin that saw the secondment of three administrative employees to other ministries.
Former ABEC Chairman-cum-regular Commissioner Sir Gerald Watt, ABEC Deputy Chairman Nathaniel “Paddy” James and Anthonyson King voted for the resolution. Chairman Juno Samuel voted against it. The other commissioner, David “Jack” Kelsick, was absent.
The three employees in question are Bernard Andrew and Karen Manwarren, who were seconded to the Ministry of Information, and Eren Francis who went to the Ministry of Gender Affairs.
Part of the resolution reads: “… that all necessary administrative action be taken by the respective permanent secretaries to return the affected employees to their lawful positions at the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission forthwith or no later than seven days, failing which the commissioners will take all necessary steps to ensure that those public servants involved comply with the laws of Antigua & Barbuda.”
In the letter to Prime Minister Spencer, who has ministerial responsibility for ABEC, Supervisor of Elections and ABEC Chief Executive Officer Lorna Simon put him on notice that inaction in the stipulated time would beget action from the commissioners.
“The commission feels itself duty bound to inform you of its intention to reverse the unlawful and arbitrary secondment of certain members of staff by former commissioner His Excellency Ambassador Bruce Goodwin,” Simon wrote.
“The commission’s decision is based on the fact that no decision to second the employees was ever taken by the commission, and a legal opinion of the legal counsel has indicated that any such secondment was ultra vires to the chairman’s authority and would be contrary to the provision of the Representation of the People Amendment Act No 17 of 2001 and particularly Section 6(4) of the Act,” the letter read.
The latest stalemate between Spencer and ABEC stems from the final days of Goodwin’s temporary tenure, days before Sir Gerald and James were due back in office after being exonerated by a tribunal that probed their management of the infamous general elections of 2009.
While James returned in the same capacity, as second in command, Sir Gerald was demoted from chairman to commissioner.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)