BPL added to lawsuit against Bannister

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) have now been named as additional defendants in a million-dollar lawsuit launched by former BPL board members following their termination in 2018.

Originally, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister in his capacity as minister and the attorney general as the legal representative of the Cabinet were named as defendants.

With this amendment, “it may be that BEC and BPL may be called upon to compensate or contribute to compensation for damages and losses” to former BPL Chairman Darnell Osborne and former BPL board members Nicola Thompson and Nick Dean, who claimed in the lawsuit that they were wrongfully removed from their posts on August 14, 2018, against the provisions of the Electricity Act.

BEC and BPL opposed the amendments “on the basis that they would suffer an injustice and be prejudiced”, according to the court document.

However, on Thursday Justice Indra Charles ruled in favor of Osborne, Thompson and Dean.

“The plaintiffs of the boards of BEC and BPL have raised in the pleadings issues of corporate governance and being wrongful[ly] terminated from those boards,” the ruling read.

“In this regard, it seems plain that BEC and BPL are necessary parties to this action and, in my considered opinion, ought to have been included as defendants to the action from outset.”

The ruling went on to state: “I agree with learned Queens Counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr. [Alfred] Sears, that the proposed amendments having been made at an [early] stage would not prejudice the defendants nor cause an injustice [to] BEC and BPL and that the amendments are necessary to determine all of the questions in controversy between the parties.”

It added, “There is no evidence of what actual prejudice has or may have been caused to BEC and BPL for which it cannot be compensated in costs.

“For all of these reasons, I will grant the amendments shown in red on the draft writ of summons and the draft statement of claim attached to the re-amended summons filed on 11 December 2019.

“I will also order that the plaintiffs pay costs to BEC and BPL agreed at the sum of $800.”

The document noted that the “matter is in the early stages of litigation”, and added that “very shortly, the defendants (including BEC and BPL) will be called on to file and serve their defence”.

The legal action initiated last year followed public controversy between the board members at the time and Bannister.

Board members alleged political interference, while Bannister claimed the board could not agree on key matters and also suggested Osborne had personal bills paid at the expense of the company.

In statements of claim filed in the Supreme Court last May, the three former board members alleged that they were terminated from their positions because they refused to approve a proposal to vary the terms of a deal in the works with Shell North America for a power purchase agreement that had already been approved by Cabinet.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in August 2018 said government would launch an investigation into matters that unfolded regarding the BPL board firing, and last April told reporters that a contract had been signed with a company to begin the probe.

However, the outcome remains unknown to date.

The former board members are suing for a specific total of $1,164,933.33 in special damages and unspecified exemplary damages.

They are represented by Alfred Sears, QC.

Krystal Rolle is representing Bannister and the attorney general, and Oscar Johnson and Keith Major represented BPL and BEC.

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