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Sharma's AATT board heads challenged
Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma’s temporary appointments of Carlisle Marks and attorney Carol Cuffy-Dowlat to the posts of chairman and deputy chairman of the Airports Authority (AATT) were yesterday challenged as illegal. The legality of their appointments was brought into question by AATT corporate secretary Shannon Rudd, who cautioned them as they attempted to hold a board meeting at the north terminal of the Piarco International Airport yesterday, the T&T Guardian was reliably informed.
Rudd told the two new members that their appointments had not been made in accordance with the Airports Authority Act, and therefore any business they carried out as part of the board would be deemed illegal. The meeting had been called to discuss several outstanding matters, including tenders. Sources said the board members present included Marks, Judith Baliram Ramoutar, Rishi Mahadeo, Premchan Sahadeo, Ruthven Goddard and Susan Charles-Sylvester, while Maria Gonsalves was absent as she is overseas. Sources say although the board members were told by the legal department, headed by Rudd, that after the elevation of Marks and the appointment of Cuffy-Dowlat the board was “constituted illegally,” the meeting still continued. Marks has always been a board member, while Cuffy-Dowlat was appointed on Monday. The appointments took place on Monday in a meeting called by Sharma, who is the line minister for the AATT. Sources say Sharma appointed Marks and called on the other members to appoint someone to the post of deputy.
Cuffy-Dowlat was nominated and subsequently appointed. Sources say Sharma did not have the authority to advise the board to make such a move, since such appointments had to be made in consultation with a Boards Committee of Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. As a result of the concerns raised by the legal department yesterday, sources say Sharma has called a meeting with the board this morning at his office to discuss the matter. The source said: “A minister cannot go out on his own and make these appointments, it has to be done in consultation. “Consultation for these appointments never took place with the boards committee or Cabinet and such a move is illegal.” Such appointments could also have implications for the Tenders Committee, which is chaired by the deputy chairman, the source pointed out. And while the remaining members of the board could elect one of its members to preside over a meeting, “this is only at meetings,” the source said.
There are millions of dollars’ worth of contracts which have to be awarded and should the AATT board continue operating illegally, as pointed out by its legal department, there would be serious legal ramifications, another source close to the authority noted. Sharma and Cuffy-Dowlat could not be contacted via their cellphones yesterday, as all calls went unanswered. Marks was reportedly elevated to fill the position of chairman Gerald Hadeed, but Hadeed is on sick leave. According to the Airports Authority Act: “A member of the authority may, at any time, resign his office by instrument in writing addressed to the minister,” but sources say Hadeed never tendered a resignation letter, nor was his appointment revoked by the PM.
Efforts to contact Hadeed were unsuccessful yesterday, as all calls to his cellphone went directly to voicemail. Two weeks ago, deputy chairman of the AATT Kurt Ajodha tendered his resignation. Ajodha, whose academic qualifications were queried by Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert during debate in Parliament, received a stipend of $7,000 a month for being on the board. During his contribution, Imbert had disclosed that Ajodha did not possess the qualifications stated on his CV. AATT sources said when he was seeking the post, Ajodha had submitted his CV to the Boards Committee and was recommended by Sharma.
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