CONCERNS have been raised over the the Chaguanas Borough Corporation (CBC)'s hiring the law firm of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan.
On October 29, the council’s two PNM members – councillor Janelle Joe-Ryan and alderman Stacey McSween – abstained from a vote to approve a proposed list of external counsel to represent the corporation.
McSween said on Friday she and Joe-Ryan abstained because the council – which is led by the UNC – sought approval for payment after Ramlogan’s Freedom Law Chambers had already been given the brief for a case against the CBC filed by a disgruntled employee.
That employee, Ronnie Mohammed, a checker with the corporation, had filed a judicial review application challenging his transfer to the stores department.
In May, Justice Carol Gobin dismissed Mohammed’s application. Ramlogan represented the corporation. Attorney Richard Jagessar represented Mohammed.
In November last year, on Mohammed's behalf, Jagessar, filed a freedom of information request asking for the names of all external attorneys the CBC had hired for civil matters, and the costs of their services. He also wanted to know the criteria used to identify which legal service was needed and which attorney should be retained, as well a list of pre-approved legal professionals before October 26, 2020, and after that date. He also wanted all approved documents relating to the retention of Ramlogan’s F chambers for the Mohammed case.
On January 4, the CBC’s CEO confirmed that Freedom Law was on its general list of approved external attorneys. Jagessar was told all lists of external counsel were prepared on a case-by-case basis and there was no pre-approved list for September 10-October 29, 2020.
He was also provided with a January 4 memorandum showing the breakdown of the votes taken on October 29, when the list of external counsel was approved, and at which the two PNM members abstained.
On May 5, Jagessar filed another freedom of information request asking for the names of all external counsel retained by the CBC for September 1, 2020, to May 5; the name of the officer who moved the vote to retain Ramlogan’s services; and who moved the vote to pay the invoices to the former AG and his firm for the Mohammed case.
On May 21, he was told it was mayor Faaiq Mohammed who read the note to retain Ramlogan and Freedom Law, and deputy mayor alderman Marissa Ramlogan read the note to approve payment by the council.
However, when contacted, the mayor said Ramlogan’s firm was chosen to represent the corporation in the judicial review case because of its “expertise and excellent reputation in the field of judicial review cases.”
Mohammed said the case brought by the disgruntled worker “could have opened up a floodgate of litigation if workers felt they could bypass the conciliation and other alternative dispute-resolution mechanisms such as the Industrial Court and file for judicial review in the High Court.
“Happily, Mr Ramlogan won the case for the corporation.
"It is clear that this is just a case of sour grapes and mischief by the losing party.”
Mohammed said there were other attorneys who also worked for the corporation, based on the nature of the case, the fees and expertise required.
“This is in line with the practice at other municipal corporations.”
He also dismissed any suggestion that he moved the vote to hire Ramlogan because the latter was his personal attorney.
“Mr Ramlogan is not my personal attorney. Yes, he did a defamation case for me some time ago against Mr Jack Warner, which we won, but I don’t think that doing a single case makes him my ‘personal attorney.’
“In any event, he was not representing me personally (in the Ronnie Mohammed matter) but rather, the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.”