Former One TV reporter-turned lawyer Charlon Gouder has been granted a full time, taxpayer-funded, government job despite continuing to work in his private legal practice and serving as CEO of the tuna lobby in Malta.
Gouder’s new job at the Arts Council falls under the political remit of National Heritage Minister Jose Herrera – Gouder’s previous employer and close friend. The position pays him €35,000 a year, separate from the numerous other lucrative government contracts from which he benefits.
Sources at the Arts Council described Gouder’s recruitment on an indefinite contract as “a scandalous phantom job” similar to the one given to Melvin Theuma – the middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination.
The sources said that no one at the Arts Council knows when Gouder – whose job title is ‘Agencies and Foundations Executive’ – performs his 40-hour a week job, nor where his office is located at the Arts Council.
It is also unclear what Gouder’s role is exactly, and what he’s doing to earn the almost €3,000 a month remuneration it pays him.
In response to questions from The Shift, Albert Marshall, the 73-year-old Executive Chair of the Arts Council, confirmed that Charlon Gouder was recruited as an executive on a full time basis last October.
The former CEO of One TV told The Shift that Gouder was hired following a call in the Government Gazette in July 2020.
The call, which The Shift found appeared only once, did not include any details about the job and refers readers to the Arts Council website. But the details have been removed from the site.
Marshall could not explain what Gouder’s remit is, when he performs his 40-hour-a-week job, or which Arts Council office he’s in.
According to his contract, seen by The Shift, Gouder’s duties are only vaguely outlined as being subject to the specific orders of Marshall.
The contract also allows him to “carry on with other business, trade or calling, whatsoever without the prior authority of the Council, as long as such work does not conflict with the subject matters under the portfolio of the council”.
The contract states that Gouder is supposed to work 40 hours a week, as any other full time employee. However, it adds that “the employee’s daily timetable is set by the Council to cater for the particular requirements of the employee’s post and is subject to change as circumstances dictate at any point in time”.
Describing this contract as “likely illegal” and “discriminatory” to other Art Council employees, the sources told The Shift that “this is a case of rampant abuse which must be investigated by the authorities”.
Jose and Charlon
Charlon Gouder, who rose to ‘fame’ as a Labour darling due to his reporting for Labour’s ONE TV, joined Minister Jose’ Herrera’s private secretariat immediately after Labour won the 2013 election.
While he occupied this full time position, Gouder also continued as a full time, mature law student at the University of Malta, graduating a few years later.
After his graduation, Gouder left his position as Herrera’s private secretary in order to set up his private law practice. Yet Herrera immediately gave him another publicly-funded role, putting him on contract as his advisor on fisheries policy despite Gouder’s lack of experience or expertise in the sector.
In 2018 Gouder resigned as Herrera’s fisheries advisor to become CEO of the Federation for Maltese Aquaculture Producers – representing Maltese tuna ranchers – so that he could act as a lobbyist with Malta’s Fisheries Minister at the time, Jose’ Herrera.
One of the first decisions taken was the removal of the Director General for Fisheries, Andreina Fenech Farrugia, over allegations of corruption. No charges have yet been brought against her.
Gouder makes hay
The Shift can also reveal that before getting this ‘full time job’ at the Arts Council, Gouder was already engaged by the same council through a direct order.
Just a month after the reshuffle that saw Herrera move from the environment ministry to the culture portfolio, Gouder was given a direct order by the Arts Council for which he was paid €2,500 a month.
Through a contract signed on February 17, 2020, Gouder was hired by Albert Marshall to “evaluate arts council legislation and its impact on the cultural sector.”
No information on what this assignment was about or what work has been done was provided.
This service provider-style contract was later followed by Gouder’s recruitment on a full time basis with higher remuneration.
In the meantime, Gouder had set up a private legal practice, called AGG Advocates, with two partners. Jonathan Attard, the ex-ONE TV journalist and aide to disgraced Minister Chris Cardona who was recently co-opted to parliament without ever contesting an election; and Joe Gerada, the lawyer who accompanied Cardona on his controversial visit to the Acapulco night club in Germany.
While the lawyers’ partnership has been receiving lucrative work from many government departments, Gouder alone was given a €15,000 direct order to provide legal services to the Malta Residency Visa Agency in November 2019.
In addition, in June last year, he was given another €30,000 direct order to provide legal services to Economy Minister Silvio Schembri.
Gouder, who is still a regular presenter on Labour’s TV and radio stations, and one of the lawyers to assist government officials in their grilling by the judges in the public inquiry on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, did not reply to any questions sent by The Shift.