Former Executive Chairperson of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Darnell Osborne has taken legal action against Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister seeking damages for wrongful dismissal from the BPL board and damages for misfeasance in public office.
Osborne is also seeking a declaration that Bannister usurped and interfered with the statutory functions of the board at her exclusion as chairperson.
Great controversy was started last August after the board chaired by Osborne was asked to resign.
Bannister made a number of claims against Osborne, including suggesting that she had sent personal bills to BPL. The minister also said board members’ failure to reach agreement on key matters cost BPL greatly.
Now Osborne is seeking a declaration that the decision of Bannister to dismiss or remove her as a director and the executive chairperson of the board “without reasonable cause and without affording her procedural fairness” is unlawful, ultra vires the Electricity Act 2015 and a breach of the rules of natural justice, procedural fairness and the duty to act responsibly.
Two defendants are named in the action filed on February 12: Bannister and Attorney General Carl Bethel.
Osborne wants the court to determine that Bannister deliberately abused and exceeded his statutory power and authority by, inter alia, unlawfully usurping the functions of the board of BPL and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), intermeddling in the affairs of the board behind her back, issuing specific and general directions to the boards, wrongfully terminating her appointment and publishing false and retaliatory statements intending to disparage, embarrass and damage her personal and professional reputation, thereby committing misfeasance in public office.
Last August, Bannister said he interfered politically after he found out that Osborne had spent (so he claimed) BPL money on makeup and a security system for her home.
“I admit to political interference because it is my duty to ensure that what happened at BPL, and what happened at BPL under the former administration, does not happen again. So when issues that came up to me were important for me to deal with and to advise the board that they could not continue in that direction [that is what I did],” he said.
Now, Osborne is seeking compensatory damages for slander in connection with statements “falsely and maliciously” spoken by Bannister to reporters. She is also seeking aggravated and exemplary damages for misfeasance in public office and slander.
And Osborne is requesting an injunction or order to restrain Bannister whether by himself, his servants, employees or agents or anyone else from further speaking, publishing, circulating, distributing or causing to be printed, published or distributed the same or similar “defamatory” words.
Two other former members of the BPL board – Nicola Thompson and Nick Dean – have also filed legal action against the minister.
They are both seeking declarations that Bannister usurped and interfered with the statutory functions of the boards of BEC and BPL at their exclusion as directors.
Like Osborne, they are seeking a declaration that Bannister acted unlawfully and breached the rules of natural justice, and a declaration the minister deliberately abused and exceeded his statutory power and authority by unlawfully usurping the functions of the board.
And they’re seeking damages for wrongful dismissal and or their wrongful and unlawful removal from the board, and damages, inclusive of aggravated and exemplary damages for misfeasance in public office.
On August 23, Osborne, Thompson and Dean released a statement refuting Bannister’s claims about Osborne submitting personal bills to BPL, and also addressed in great detail other matters that have resulted in “an unholy mess” at the company.
Bannister had claimed that evidence of Osborne submitting personal bills to BPL for payment would be made public.
In their statement, Osborne, Thompson and Dean said, “In the spirit of transparency, we join with the minister and support the release of all expenses submitted to the company by Mrs. Osborne.
“We also encourage the release of the same information of all former board members.
“We also encourage that information on the travel of all board members be itemized, who approved the travel and the purpose of the trip.”
Bannister never made the so-called bills public.
The former BPL board members are represented by Sears & Co.