NEC Clears Grigsby to Contest -Says Objector Has No case

MONROVIA: The resolve of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to speedily adjudicate nomination related cases brought against aspirants before it manifested yesterday when it denied and dismissed an objection filed against Mr. Teklo Maxwell Grigsby II, an independent representative aspirant in District #1, Sinoe County by another aspirant in the same district Mr. Tolbert Winstson Doe who is contesting on the platform of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), for lack of substance. The NEC therefore cleared Mr. Grigsby of any hindrance and objection to fully take part as a candidate for said position during the ensuing October 10, 2023 general elections.

“This Hearing takes administrative notice of the fact that a case concerning the legality of Executive Order #117 is subjudice at the Highest Court of the land. In the face of that, it is untenable and borders on contempt to attempt addressing it at this administrative body.

“Perhaps in recognition of the foregoing fact, objector’s counsel during argument rescinded the substance of his objection as contained in his letter of objection, which is the alleged violation of the Executive Order, and now maintained that his objection is on the basis of violation of the National Code of Conduct. It is a settled law principle that oral cannot vitiate what is written. And if objector wanted to change the ground of his objection as contained in his letter, he had the option of amending same but failed to do so.

“But even granted were we to assume this new stance, this Hearing as well takes notice that relevant portions of the amendment to the National Code of Conduct are not applicable to these elections as the one-year resignation provision came into force in December 2022”, part of the ruling issued by NEC and signed by its Hearing Officer Atty Fomba A.M. Swaray said.

According to the fact’s summary of the objection, Mr. Doe, the objector, asserted that Mr. Grigsby, who had served as Chairman of the Liberia Small Arms Commission, should be disqualified as a candidate for violation of Executive Order #117, which mandated certain government officials who intended to aspire for elective positions in the October 10, 2023 General Elections to resign their posts on or before April 7, 2023.

The report said after being cited, the parties appeared before the hearing office, Atty Swaray, on June 28, 2023, and argued the matter beginning with the objector who argued in essence that the respondent “flagrantly violated the National Code of Conduct, the Constitution of Liberia, and Elections Law by not resigning in keeping with said law and therefore prayed this Hearing to disqualify respondent Grigsby in standing in the elections”

On the other hand, while seeking the dismissal of the case, the respondent countered that the matter should be dismissed because the objector does not have capacity to challenge his candidature; that the election regulation lists the category of persons who may bring such challenge, and objector does not fall in that category and that further to this, “a case concerning the violation of Executive Order #117 is pending before the full Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court undetermined, which renders it against the law for such matter to be raised at this forum”

While discussing the issues, the Hearing Officer made a determination that NEC disagreed with the respondent, stating that the objector whose name appeared on the provisional lists of candidates, has standing and capacity to file objection to respondent’s name on the NEC provisional list of candidates.

The Hearing Officer however said that the facts presented by Grigsby were not in dispute, stating that Grigsby had resigned his appointed government post as Chairman of the Liberia Small Arms Commission on June 1, 2023.

“During arguments Mr. Grigsby stated that his resignation was not in adherence to Executive Order #117 because the legality of the matter is still pending undetermined at the Honorable Supreme Court; rather that he resigned in compliance with section 5.8 of the Code of Conduct, which is the applicable portion of that law relative to him; that his objector is arguing he should have resigned on April 7, 2023 but that by April 4, 2023 a stay order from the Honorable Supreme Court was placed on the matter of the Executive Order; that the matter cannot be argued before this Hearing due to its pendency at the Court”, the ruling said.

It can be recalled President George Manneh Weah on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 issued Executive Order #117 mandating all appointed officials of the government aspiring to contest elective positions in the impending October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections to resign on or before April 7, 2023.

According to President Weah at the time, Executive Order #117, which sought to ensure the government’s compelling interest to create what he called “for a level playing political field to prevent Liberia’s competitive politics from unfair and undue advantages”, acknowledged that the objectives of the Code of Conduct is to dissociate the fiduciary duty of trust, integrity and loyalty owed by public officials to the people from their personal desires to contest elections at the expense of public resources.

“The Act provides that all officials appointed by the President including all cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers consuls, superintendents of counties and other Government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to Article 56(a) of the 1986 Constitution, and any managing director, deputy managing director, assistant managing director of corporation owned by the Government of Liberia, any commissioner, deputy and assistant commissioner of any commission established by the Legislature, and any official of the Government who negotiates and executes contracts, procures goods and services, and/or manages assets for and on behalf of the Government of Liberia, who desires to canvass or contest for an elective public office within the Government of Liberia shall resign his or her position one (1) year before the date on which the election for the post for which he/she intends to contest”

However, based on the complaints filed by the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), the Supreme Court of Liberia halted its implementation until a determination is made on whether it should be implemented or not.

The EFFL sought the court to void the Executive Order just as the Justice in Chamber of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, Justice Yamei QuiQuoi Gbeisay, had issued an Alternative Writ of Prohibition as prayed for by petitioner (EFFL).

The issuance of the alternative writ of prohibition had placed a “stay order” on the enforcement of the Executive Order # 117 and until and unless a final decision was made and a decision was made either to quash the alternative writ of prohibition or grant the petitioner prayer for the issuance of a peremptory writ of prohibition, Presidential appointees have no obligation to resign on April 7, 2023 as was mandated by President George Manneh Weah.

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