Scully Lestrade Plaintiff/Appellant v Roseau Town Council and Frederick E. Degazon Defendants/Respondents [ECSC]

JurisdictionCaribbean States
CourtEastern Caribbean Supreme Court
JudgeCECIL LEWIS, J.A., Acting Chief Justice
Judgment Date08 Jul 1970
Neutral Citation[1970] ECSC J0708-1
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No. 5 of 1969
[1970] ECSC J0708-1

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL

Before:

The Honourable the Acting Chief Justice

The Honourable Mr. Justice P. Cecil Lewis

The Honourable Mr. Justice St. Bernard (Ag.)

Civil Appeal No. 5 of 1969

Between:
Scully Lestrade
Plaintiff/Appellant
and
Roseau Town Council and Frederick E. Degazon
Defendants/Respondents

Miss M. E. Charles for the Appellant

Miss Vanya Dupigny with J. Armour for the Respondents

CECIL LEWIS, J.A.
1

The first named respondent is a body corporate established by the Roseau Town Council Ordinance Cap. 189 (hereinafter referred to as "the Ordinance") for the government of the town of Roseau in Dominica. By section 3 of the Ordinance it is provided that "the said body corporate shall bear the name of the 'Roseau Town Council'", (hereinafter referred to as "the Council"), that it "shall have an office in the town and an official seal, shall be entitled to make contracts and to sue and be sued in its name, and to acquire, hold, mortgage and dispose of all property real and personal."

2

By a notice (Exhibit A) published in the Dominica Herald of July 10th, 1965, the Council invited applications "from suitably qualified persons for the post of Town Clerk in the service of the Municipality of Roseau."

3

The Council is authorised by s. 20(1) of the Ordinance to appoint certain officers of the Council. This subsection reads as follows:—

"20. (l) The council may, with the prior approval of the Administrator in Council—

(a) appoint fit and proper persons to be town clerk, chief sanitary inspector, assistant town clerk and town overseer of Roseau respectively;

(b) from time to time fix or alter the salaries to be paid to such officers ; and

(c) suspend or dismiss any of the said officers.

4

The following information (inter alia) was contained in the

5

notice in relation to the post of town clerk (a) the post is pensionable and carries the salary of $3,372 by annual increments of $144 to $3,948 and that it is governed by Colonial Regulations, General Orders in force in Dominica and by other rules in that island affecting the civil service; (b) the duties of the town clerk were specified in the notice which substantially reproduced the provisions of section 21 of the Ordinance wherein these duties are set out. This section reads:—

"21. (l) The town clerk shall be the chief executive officer of the council; he shall have all such powers and perform all such duties as are or may be conferred or imposed upon him by this or any other Act or Ordinance or by any regulation, by-law, or order of the council and shall collect the rates, dues and fees payable to the council under the by-laws.

(2) The town clerk shall attend the meetings of the council and of every committee, and shall keep minutes of the proceedings at every such meeting."

6

(c) The notice also stated that leave would be granted to the town clerk according to leave regulations in force in Dominica, and (d) that the appointment to the post of town clerk is subject to the approval of the Administrator in Council.

7

By a letter from the acting town clerk dated October 11th, 1965, (Exhibit B) the appellant was informed that his application for the post of town clerk had been successful and that the approval of the Administrator in Council for his appointment for a probationary period of six months had been received and he was asked to make arrangements to take up his post on November 1st, 1965.

8

The appellant duly entered the service of the Council and assumed the duties of his post, but, unfortunately, relations between him and the Council became rather strained in early 1969.

9

Very many documents have been referred to in the appeal record, and it would perhaps be convenient to mention them in their chronological order, although not all of them are exhibits to the record.

10

The first documents to which reference will be made are letters dated 8th and 10th January, 1969, from the chairman of the Council to the appellant. These are not exhibited to the record and their contents can only be guessed at by virtue of a resolution moved by Councillor R.O.P. Armour which appeared as part of the minutes of an emergency meeting of the Council (Exhibit E) held on the 19th May, 1969. In this resolution Mr. Armour made reference to the fact that past chairman of the counsil had expressed their dissatisfaction with the non-attendance at work of the town clerk, and the non-performance of his functions on several occasions. He also mentioned that the chairman had in these letters requested the appellant to furnish explanations to certain queries and that the only reply which had been received was that contained in a letter of the 14th May written by the appellant to the chairman of the Council. Mr. Armour sought by his resolution to persuade the Council to obtain the approval of the Governor in Council for the suspension of the appellant, "pending a decision by Cabinet to approve his dismissal", and he suggested that copies of the relevant correspondence should be submitted to the Government "to text opportunity of considering the matter." Another member of the Council moved an amendment to Mr. Armour's resolution and this amendment was carried.

11

The minutes of this meeting are by no means clear, but it was apparently decided by a majority that the appellant should be informed that he would be granted leave pending a reply from the Government. It also appears that Mr. Armour's substantive motion for the suspension of the appellant was not proceeded with, for the minutes record that "Councillor Armour was excused for the rest of the meeting" and there text evidence that his resolution was even seconded before he was granted permission to leave the meeting.

12

The next document to which reference should be made is a letter of 28th May, 1969, written by the chairman of the Council to the Premier. This letter also is not on record, but it apparently conveyed to the Premier the decision of the Council at its meeting of 19th May. In the Premier's reply (Exhibit J) to the chairman of the Council the Premier stated that the procedure "in this case could with advantage be based on that obtaining in the civil service, "and he went on to say that it was usual for charges to be drawn up to which the appellant should be asked to reply, and that if the Council did not consider his reply satisfactory he should be so informed and also told that the matter would be sent to the Government with a recommendation for his dismissal.

13

A circular letter dated 28th June, 1969, (Exhibit G) was sent by the chairman of the Council to the members, and they were asked to record their decisions as to what should be done in respect of the laying of formal charges against the appellant. To this letter was attached a copy of the chairman's letter to the Premier dated 18th May, 1969, and of the Premier's reply thereto, and members were asked to signify whether they would approve of the chairman of the Council writing to the Premier requesting the services of an officer of the central government to assist the Council in the drafting of such charges as might be necessary. The Council by a majority approved the chairman's suggestion that the assistance of the central government should be obtained.

14

On the 8th of July, 1969, another emergency meeting of the Council was held and in the minutes of this meeting (Exhibit D) under the heading "Purpose of the meeting" the following appears:

"The Chairman read the notice convening the meeting and reiterated on (sic) the points made in various correspondence dealing with the Town Clerk. He invited discussion on suggested procedure in correspondence with government and the Town Clerk."

15

After some discussion, Councillor Armour moved the following resolution:

"That the Council request Government to approve of the suspension of Mr. Scully Lestrade as town clerk and he be placed on half pay pending the charges laid against him and that the chairman be empowered to send off the draft letter exhibited, to Mr. Lestrade."

16

The motion was carried. This, then, was the effective motion for the suspension of the town clerk.

17

On the 9th July a letter (Exhibit H) was written by the chairman of the Council to the Premier. In the chairman's letter he enclosed for the Premier's approval a draft of the letter which it was proposed to send to the appellant, and he stated that the procedure outlined in the letter had been approved by a majority of the members of the Council at a meeting held on the 8th of July in accordance with a resolution passed at that meeting. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of this letter are important and they read as follows:

"3. It will be observed that it was intended that he (that is the appellant) should be suspended on half of his salary and approval is specially requested for this action.

4. It is recommended that the proposed inquiry into the charges against Mr. Lestrade should be conducted by Mr. F. E. Degazon, O.B.E., L.LB."

18

These paragraphs, and, indeed, the whole of the letter of 9th July, 1969, from the chairman of the Council to the Premier will be the subject of comment at a later stage.

19

The next document in chronological order is a letter dated 19th July, 1969, addressed by the chairman of the Council to the appellant. This letter is Exhibit C in the record and reads as follows:—

"Office of the Roseau Town Council,

Roseau,

Dominica.

19th July, 1969.

Dear Sir,

I have to inform you that your reply of the 14th May, 1969 in answer to the letters...

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