SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — The police on Friday confirmed that there is an ongoing fraud investigation at the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC).
This comes following Independent Councillor Ian Myles’ announcement Thursday that a probe had been launched into the misuse of signatures.
The investigation was launched after Councillor Garfield James (Independent, Sheffield Division) complained that his signature was among five affixed to a document that vows to have Mayor Bertel Moore removed from office “in September 2023”. The document, which was seen by the Jamaica Observer, also refers to three independent councillors, who were originally elected on a PNP ticket, as members of the Jamaica Labour Party.
“I want my name to be cleared as it relates to that particular fraudulent documentation in circulation with my signature on it that I am not aware of and I did not place it on it,” James said during Thursday’s meeting.
“It raises a bigger question: What else is being done with my signature here? I am responsible for signing cheques for different entities. It is a very serious matter. All individuals are innocent until found guilty in the court of law but allegations in the public eye can put you in a position where you never recover,” he added.
Asked for confirmation of a police investigation, the officer in charge of the Westmoreland Police Division, Senior Superintendent Wayne Josephs said the fraud squad is conducting an investigation at the corporation, but he was unable to provide any details.
Myles said that in addition to the police investigation into the misuse of the signatures the WMC will also do its own probe.
“The Fraud Squad would have been called in and statements would have been given because this is a serious matter. You cannot run a corporation and persons are going to take your signature from a computer, copy and paste it onto a document. That doesn’t speak well,” he said.
“That is a separate investigation that is ongoing but, outside of the police doing their own investigation, it is something that internally we also have to do because we need to know who those persons are who are involved. This is something that [the] council must stamp out, or we will never recover,” added Myles.
His comments came as he chaired a special meeting of the local authority, held at a time when it would usually be on summer break. None of the councillors elected on a People’s National Party ticket were present. Myles was chairing the meeting based on a motion moved by Councillor Rudolph Uter (JLP, Frome Division), who cited the mayor’s absence.
Myles’ assurance during the meeting that he would be working closely with Moore to address the issue of stray cows that have caused three fatal crashes provided the opening for criticism about the mayor.
“I have great concern that our mayor might not be able to fully control and operate the corporation at this important point that we are at. We need strong actions now to prevent some of the things that are currently happening, and we need to take the steps to ensure that we get over this rough patch so that we can do the work of those who elected us,” said Councillor Kevin Murray (JLP, Friendship Division).
Rumours have long swirled that there is a move afoot to remove Moore from office. On July 13 the deputy mayor, Councillor Danree Delancy, was controversially ousted from the position after a no confidence vote fuelled by the combined votes of the JLP and Independent councillors. Myles was then voted in. The legality of those votes is now in question and the matter will next be addressed in the Civil Division of the Supreme Court on August 17.
Thursday’s meeting was purportedly called to address several issues. These included the conduct of Councillor Devon Thomas (PNP, Savanna-la-Mar North Division) during the heated July 13 meeting. It is alleged that Thomas used expletives, and that is a breach of Section 44, Subsection 1 of the 2016 Local Governance Act.