Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Election court lawyers want $400,000 from Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel and defeated Free National Movement candidate Dr. Duane Sands

Election court lawyers want $400,000
By JUAN MCCARTNEY ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

An already cash-strapped Public Treasury will be asked to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the attorneys who represented Progressive Liberal Party Member of Parliament Ryan Pinder in the Elizabeth Election Court challenge earlier this year will ask for more than $400,000 from Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel and defeated Free National Movement candidate Dr. Duane Sands.

The court costs will be comprised of a $357,000 bill for the actual court proceedings, and a $28,700 bill for services rendered involving Sands' unsuccessful bid to have Pinder's Election Court petition thrown out before the actual proceedings began, according to Wayne Munroe, one of the attorneys who represented Pinder.

On March 23 Election Court Senior Justices Anita Allen and John Isaacs ruled Pinder the winner of the challenge and ordered Bethel to pay 75 percent of Pinder's costs, with Sands responsible for the remaining 25 percent.

Pinder's lead counsel was Philip Brave Davis. He was assisted by Munroe, Valentine Grimes and Keod Smith.

Munroe said the bill for the strike out petition has been filed for some time, but the bill for the court proceedings will be filed today - the last day Munroe has to do so without asking for an extension.

The Supreme Court Registrar will then go over the bills item by item and decide if any alterations should be made.

Sands and Bethel are now faced with a bill $100,000 higher than they could have settled for.

Munroe said that Pinder's legal team offered Bethel and Sands' respective counsels an offer to settle the strike out bill at $20,000.

He added that Bethel and Sands' were also offered to settle the court proceedings at $275,000 but refused both offers.

Elizabeth Returning Officer (and Director of Immigration) Jack Thompson was also named as a respondent in the by-election court challenge, but was not ordered to pay costs.

The February 16 by-election ended with Sands receiving 1,501 votes to Pinder's 1,499 votes. However on March 23 the Election Court ruled that 5 protest votes cast in favor of Pinder should be counted, pushing Pinder's total to 1,504 votes, making him the winner of the seat.

Bethel was blasted in the justices' ruling, where it was said that he failed to protect the integrity of the Elizabeth register.

And as the PLP MP's legal team prepares to collect on Election Court costs, an FNM MP's legal counsel was still awaiting payment of his hefty bill up to a few weeks ago.

The Guardian understands that Fred Smith, who represented Marco City MP Zhivargo Laing in his successful challenge against former MP Pleasant Bridgewater, had still not received payment on his $1 million bill.

June 23, 2010