‘Fahngon Unfit to Hold Gov’t Job’

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Flashback: Mr. Fahngon in handcuffs at the Legislature.

-Lawmakers said of his ‘unruly behavior’; send him to prison

By Leroy M. Sonpon and David A. Yates

Members of the House of Representatives yesterday, September 12, recommended to President George Weah not to allow Deputy Information Minister Eugene L. Fahngon to hold any key government position, because he was “unqualified.”

Besides branding him unfit to serve in government, the lawmakers also ordered Fahngon to serve a three-day imprisonment, which he started serving as of yesterday but at the police cell on Capitol Hill, until he can be transferred to the Monrovia Central Prison where he will spend the remaining two days.

As part of his punishment for being disrespectful to the lawmakers, Fahngon was also fined the amount of 4,999 Liberian cents, which he is to deposit into government coffers for his contempt charge.

The lawmakers’ action resulted from Fahngon’s defiant posture, refusing to make any comment to the lawmakers when he appeared before that august body for the hearing of his contempt charge.

Information Minister Eugene Nagbe and his Deputy, Fahngon, were summoned on Tuesday, September 11, by members of the House of Representatives following a complaint from Representative Edwin M. Snowe that Fahngon disrespected him as a sitting legislator and, by extension, the House of Representatives.

The two ministers did not appear on Tuesday as expected, and so the House held both men in contempt, and subsequently mandated them to appear before them yesterday, September 12.

During Fahngon and Nagbe’s appearance yesterday, Minister Nagbe apologized to the lawmakers, but Fahngon deliberately refused to do so in the presence of his boss.

Fahngon was also mandated by the lawmakers to bring along his lawyer, upon which order he invited Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison to represent his legal interest at the hearing of the contempt proceedings.

When quizzed in the presence of Cllr. Johnson-Allison about his tussle with Rep. Snowe and Gray, Fahngon evoked Article 21 (c) and said he has the right to remain silent or only speak to the lawmakers in the presence of his lawyer.

The Chairman on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative J. Fonati Koffa, clarified that Fahngon has the right to evoke Article 21(c), which indicates that he waived his right to testify, but the House can use the evidence and witnesses provided by their colleagues to make a decision.

Article 21 (c): Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent, and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law. Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”

However, following the argument, the lawmakers, in a unanimous vote through a motion from Representative Clarence Massaquoi and amendments from other members, voted to jail Fahngon for three days beginning Wednesday night. He is to be placed in a withholding cell at the police headquarters, after which he will be sent to the Monrovia Central Prison today, Thursday, to complete his jail term.

The House’s decision will be communicated to the senate and the President subsequently.

It can be recalled that on September 9, while at a night club, Fahngon and Bomi County Electoral District #1 Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe were caught publicly exchanging invectives on a video posted on Facebook.

In the video, a war of words ensued between the two politicians over a misunderstanding that reportedly erupted between one Kelvin D.J. Mattaldi and Fahngon.

Reports gathered say Mr. Mattaldi, who is also the media officer in the office of Rep. Snowe, reportedly photographed Fahngon while he as allegedly dancing with a woman at a local night club.

The reports detailed that following the photograph, Fahngon immediately ordered that the photos be deleted, but the situation brought the intervention of state security officers who landed the matter at a nearby police depot.

Thereafter a huge outburst ensued between Snowe and Fahngon to the extent that the lawmaker demanded the immediate release of Mattaldi from the police depot.

Fahngon and Rep. Snowe were seen in the live Facebook video in an exchange of words, with a slew of expletives coming from the deputy minister. The video, which went viral on social media, also grabbed the attention of some Liberian Facebook users, with many terming the exchanges between the two as “childish.”

“Rep. Snowe was more moderate, but Fahngon was seen insulting and nearly assaulting the lawmaker,” one person commented.

Meanwhile, Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray,
who witnessed the scene between the two men in the presence of onlookers, described the actions of Fahngon “as a dangerous path towards Liberia’s emerging democracy.”

Rep. Gray, who did not regret his comments, wondered what was so dangerous about the photo that led Fahngon to conduct himself against the Code of Conduct.

Section 5.9 of the Code provides that, “Any public official, after due process, who is found guilty of violating any provision of this section should be immediately removed from the position or office held by him/her and thereafter no part of the funds appropriated by any law for such position or office should be used to pay compensation to such person.”

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15 COMMENTS

  1. LOL. All I can do is laugh. Told you all that the House will continue to overstep its bounds and keep arresting and jailing people without due process. This is clearly what some of you support so continue to live in blissful ignorance!

  2. The house has no right to send any citizen to prison without due process. If people who supposed to be our lawmakers don’t know this then for God sake, we are in trouble. Anybody in contempt of the house as alleged, ought to be referred to a court of law for prosecution and reprimanded thereafter, if found liable. This action by our so-called lawmakers (or lawbreakers now) is illegal and tyrannical! When you consider the fact that the incident giving rise to this “contempt” charge took place between individuals outside their official capacities, the HOR’s action can be seen as overarching and abuse of power. Let me meanwhile clarify that Eugene Fargon had no authority before right, to order any citizen detained without court order and simply because he’s a government official. That is the first miscarriage of justice. Secondly, the darn police had no business detaining a citizen especially for the level of “crime” allegedly committed just because a government official orders them to detain the individual. 2nd miscarriage of justice. Edwin Snowe on he other hand, had all rights as a government official to demand the release of a citizen detained illegally for which he could be answerable later. The sticking point as in equal justice in this case is, could any Joe Blow order the detention of another citizen and the police oblige just as happened in this case? If the answer to this question is no, then the police ought not to have bent or trounced that standard just because a government official gave the order. Ultimately, the HOR had no business interjecting itself in a matter outside of its jurisdiction in the first place and regardless. Being a legislator does not mean members are protected or exempt from equal treatment under the law like all others. Only when legislators are in session, or on their way to or from session are they immune from arrest, having to do with safeguarding them from any sinister actions that could impede a representative/senator from participating or voting on a crucial issue on the floor germaine to the welfare of the republic. That privilege does not imply by any long stretch that a representative/senator can just go around in nightclubs or other social settings picking fuss and believing they are immune from arrest. Equally, the HOR/senate cannot be in the business of hauling citizens before them for trial just because one of their members was involved. No! House members can sue and be sued equally. So if any member is aggrieved by the action of a citizen, that representative/senator has the right to press charges like any other citizen. Not the business of rhea HOR, period!

  3. It is actually Edwin Snowe who is unfit to hold Gov’t job’, and has the ‘unruly behavior’ of hiring his thugs to criminally take photos of people in their privacies. Snowe is on record for carrying out such criminal act against a sitting minister of State for Presidential Affairs Willis Knuckles a few years ago.

    The fact that Acarious Gray and others need Snowe´s vote for other purposes in lower House, does not alter the fact that it is an abuse of power and an obstruction of justice for Snowe demanding the release of his Snowe´s thug Kelvin Maltadi who has been caught in the commission of a criminal act apparently ordered by Snowe; considering Snowe´s notorious public record of such criminal act.

    Accrodigly, Edwin Snowe is unfit to be a part of a nation´s legislature, and by extension unfit to hold Gov’t job’, and has the ‘unruly behavior’ of hiring his thugs to criminally take photos of people in their privacies.

    • You are wrong! The House if a part of the first Branch of Government! This will have nothing to do with the Courts, so please realize that the Judicial Branch will have no Constitutional Authority to intervene is this matter! Precedence has already been set that the House has the right to abuse its power in all cases requiring due process of law! You are being sentimental because Fahngon is your friend or kinsman!
      (I am being sarcastic of course)

      Idiots.

  4. Well, like I commented few times elsewhere, what transpired that night was a series of comedy of errors or bizarre behaviors. And they don’t make Eugene Fahngon, who believed he was a target of secret media exposure, “unfit to work for government” by any stretch. The Deputy Minister is a loud strong voice in a mute Ministry of Information, of course, many detractors of government want him out: An old political tactic!

  5. “Unfit to work for government” What? Nonsense–He is qualify than most of your so-called politicians. The legislature should be very careful about the so-call standards they are trying to set…double standards that you cannot live by…A group take has been laced by some of the earthly wrongs against our people. Yes, he is qualify to serve our people than most of those that send him to jail. They missed an opportunity for rapprochement. The act is shameful with a lack of vision. He has a future that some you will later come to realize….

  6. This is terrible and unfortunate i believe the lawmaker himself crossed his line of authority and should therefore be held in contempt as well… Eugene is still a powerful voice for this pro poor government and i believe the evil cartels want him out in order to destroy the president’s agenda…bravo Eugene for defending your image…going to jail for defending your image makes you a hero…let the rest of haters wobble in their pathetic jungle justice.

  7. Sylvester. I agree with your comment.

    I’ll add my observation here, from a legal perspective though, from a U.S. jurisprudence. What has taken place on all sides reflect the still embryonic state of the understanding of governance by the nation’s political leaders. As a result, one will most likely continue to see abuses of power in the short term until the culture is entrenched with the ideal of what constitutes due process and the practical manifestation of it. My comment is based solely on information received from this online media publication.

    What Mattaldi did in photographing a public official may have frustrated the official, but it is in no way a criminal act. In the U.S., we’ve had the Senate Majority leader and his wife, who is a cabinet secretary (minister) both harassed and insulted, and all they could do was complain. Speaker of the House, Ryan.

    The response by Fahngon in calling securities and authorizing them was an overreach by both he and the arresting officer. The event was not a private event. It was opened to all patrons who could pay and meet the club’s dress codes. The club itself is a private business, so the officers should never have intervene beyond the request of the club’s management. If they were called by the club, then they were to simply take a police report from the club management about the incident. And if violations had already occurred, they then should have taken reports from those involved and only make arrest of a person who may have committed a crime or whose arrest would prevent a violent crime based on their independent assessment of the situation. The most likely action by the police, barring any crime, would’ve been to ask the parties to leave the club, if no crime had occurred. And copies of the police reports taken from the parties should’ve been served to the party who called the police (most likely the club’s management and Rep Snowe). Snowe and/or the club’s management would then have needed to go to court and file a claim against Mattaldi. Because the actions here involved life, liberty, safety, and property, these all being due process markers and at no time involved Legislative proceedings, it is a matter for the court to decide the liabilities of the parties.

    The House’ summoning Minister Fahngon to answer for his public conducts is within its authority. I had suggested in an earlier comment that his actions were impeachable offenses, separate in itself from the fact that it involved a member of the House. But to conduct a hearing solely on a petition by a House member’s petition of a personal altercation with someone, and ascribed that as a contempt of the House, is an abused of his authority and lacks enforcement under the Separation of Power and the Checks and Balances of the Branches. Minister Fahngon serves at the will and pleasure of the President. The House hearing that denied Fahngon’s lawyer from speaking for him is clearly a violation of due process. I’m disagree with Rep Fonati’s opinion that the lawyer couldn’t speak for Fahngon, and a bit surprised considering he’s a product of a U.S Law School, and may have even practiced law in the U S. He’s aware or should’ve been aware that a lawyer is given the facts by his client and the lawyer may choose to have the client speak or the lawyer may choose to make the legal presentation for the client. So the House relying solely on Rep Snowe’s charges and rendering a decision violates due process. Now if there’s a case that justifies the Supreme Court’s intervention with a Stay Order, this is it. All the Constitutional markers are there.

    The last point I want to make is that the Legislature can actually send someone to jail for contempt of the Legislature. Though in the U.S., Congress actually has its own jail. But contempt of Congress is not used arbitrarily for individual self interest as in this case. Rather it deals with matter exclusively dealing with concessional hearings and one’s refusal to provide requested information to Congress or appear when required.

    I suggest the Ministry of Information for which Minister works to proceed to the Supreme Court against the House and the Justice Department (MOJ) to get involved, since this involved an Executive Branch appointee, and that the MOJ file an amicus curiae “friend of the court” with the Supreme Court, declaring the actions of the House a clear violation of the law.

  8. This is a complete joke. The Legislators just feel that they are above the law. If you curse a legislator in a restaurant because he steps on your toe, they will haul you to the full session to answer why you stepped on a legislature toes. Laughable.

    They have nothing to do. Instead of deliberating on the Liberian issues and problems at hand, they are having sessions on stupid things. And to imagine these guys are paid thousands of dollars for this nonsensical waste of time. God save our country!!

    They now feel they are judge, jury and executioners.

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