Magistrate Ambrose Armbrister will preside over the fraud trial of former Urban Renewal Deputy Director Michelle Reckley and five other people.
The group appeared before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt yesterday for a status hearing.
Reckley, 50, was charged with defrauding the government of over $1.2 million through the government’s Small Homes Repair Programme on Grand Bahama.
She was charged on February 13, along with James Hall, 49; Christopher Symonette, 57; Stefanie Collie, 28; Kylon Vincent, 26; and Joseph Lightbourne, 40.
There were 41 fraud related charges in total. All six entered not guilty pleas during their initial court appearance.
The group will appear before Armbrister at 10 a.m. on March 29 for a fixture hearing.
Ferguson-Pratt said she spoke to several of her colleagues in an effort to transfer the matter out of her court.
“One or two were not minded to adjudicate the matter,” she said.
But she said Armbrister had no issue with hearing the case.
“I have asked him that the matter [be] fixed for two weeks so it can move quickly and a resolution can be made,” she said.
She added that such matters “weigh heavily on defendants” and that some matters can go on for months or years.
Anthony McKinney, QC, who appeared on behalf of Symonette, said he wrote to Prosecutor Eucal Bonaby on March 12 regarding disclosures.
He noted that he did not expect Bonaby to have a reply ready by yesterday.
Ferguson-Pratt reiterated that with six defendants, the trial is likely to “go on for an inordinate amount of time” unless a set time is fixed.
On the proposal of a trial date, Bonaby indicated that perhaps the matter be heard in either late June or early July.
Attorney Simeon Brown, who appeared on behalf of Hall and Lightbourne, said he would need time for disclosure and proposed an August date for trial.
But Ferguson-Pratt said, “You will have problems with witnesses.”
She noted that, from experience, police officers usually take vacation in the summer months.
McKinney said, “I hate to disagree with my colleague. I am inclined to go along with the July date.”
Ferguson-Pratt said she does not want to see the matter go on for years.
But Brown said he is concerned about going through the discovery process.
He noted that in McKinney’s letter to Bonaby, he “requests engagement contracts between the government, Urban Renewal and KPMG” and all audits and contracts with Urban Renewal relating to Hurricane Matthew.
“When you talk about accounting, it takes time,” Brown said.
“I am not an accountant. I have to sit with my accountant to work it out.”
Attorney Carlson Shurland appeared on behalf of Reckley, Vincent and Collie.
Bonaby, Kendra Kelly and Cphia Pinder-Moss appeared on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.