STB demands Fitzgerald, govt settle $800K in costs, damages
Save The Bays (STB) has given the government 14 days to settle nearly $800,000 in damages and legal costs related to a Supreme Court ruling involving former Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald.
In a demand letter dated December 8 and addressed to Fitzgerald and the Office of the Attorney General, attorney Fred Smith, QC, instructed the former
Marathon MP to settle the costs of his clients’ appeal, as ordered by the appellate court, totaling $641,353.23, in addition to the $150,000 the Supreme Court ordered Fitzgerald to pay.
“In the premises, we hereby request payment of the sum of $150,000.00 within 14 days of this letter together with interest at the statutory rate of 6.75 percent pa from the date of the judgment to 21st December, 2016 and thereafter at the statutory rate of 6.25 percent from 22nd December, 2016 until payment in full,” read the demand letter.
“We further request that you confirm within 14 days of this letter by way of affidavit of compliance that you have permanently destroyed and/or deleted all of our clients’ hard copy document and electronic files or records.
Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles ruled last year August that Fitzgerald breached the privacy rights of members of the environmental group when he read their private emails in Parliament last March.
In addition to the $150,000 in damages, the court granted STB a permanent injunction prohibiting the then education minister from disclosing or publishing any private information belonging to the group without its consent.
The court also ordered that Fitzgerald destroy all documents or electronic files belonging to STB’s members.
Smith, a member of STB, was a plaintiff in the matter.
The government appealed the decision.
Fitzgerald also moved a motion in Parliament for the matter to be sent to the Committee on Privilege.
In June, however, Attorney General Carl Bethel instructed a withdrawal of the appeal.
The decision caused uproar, with Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis demanding the government explain its decision, which he said has implications on the privilege of parliamentarians.
Additionally, Davis questioned whether the dropped appeal was payback for Smith’s support of the Free National Movement.
Smith has been open about his support of the FNM, endorsing the party ahead of the general election.
In March 2016, Fitzgerald claimed that an individual with foreign interests was funding STB with millions of dollars to destabilize the Christie administration.
He claimed to possess a string of emails and financial records, including specific payments to STB members, which he later said were dropped in his “political garbage can” that would “shake this country to the core”.
He accused STB, its members and associated entities and individuals of being involved in “the Bahamian hustle”.
In the demand letter, Smith maintained that while documents cannot exist to show improprieties and/or illegality, as his clients have not been involved in either, Fitzgerald should detail any documents he has in his affidavit of compliance.
“In summary, we require complete disclosure, accountability and transparency from you as to all of the papers you received which belong to our clients — whether or not you consider them to be the documents identified by our clients in the Supreme Court trial — and deliver up to us of all copies of the same and/or confirmation that all copies have been destroyed and/or deleted,” the attorney demanded.
“Failure to comply with the judgment and our reasonable request for discovery and production as aforesaid, will result not only in enforcement of the judgment against you, but also our clients making a further application to Judge Charles to compel you to comply with our above requests, which we will argue must have been implicit in the judgment.
“Your cooperation in this regard will avoid unnecessary further costs being incurred in the enforcement of the judgement, and we urge you to cooperate.”