Osborne wants declaration that BPL’s  board was set up illegally

Former Executive Chairperson of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Darnell Osborne is seeking a court declaration that the appointment of a new BPL board back in August 2018 was illegal and that all acts performed by it are “void, illegal and of no effect”.

Osborne and former board members Nicola Thompson and Nick Dean took legal action against Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister in 2019 and are seeking damages for wrongful dismissal from the BPL board and damages for misfeasance in public office.

The trio are seeking $1.1 million in damages.

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 in August 2018 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.

Two defendants were named in the action filed on February 12, 2019: Bannister and the attorney general.

Since that initial suit, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and BPL were named as additional defendants.

In an amended statement of claim filed on February 7, Osborne is seeking, “A declaration that the purported appointment of the new board of the second and third defendants [BEC and BPL respectively] is illegal [and] void…”.

She is also seeking a declaration that “all acts done, and duties performed by the new board of the second and third defendants [BEC and BPL] are void, illegal and of no effect”.

All three former board members “alternatively” seek declarations that they were and still are directors and executives of BPL.

Osborne is also seeking a declaration that BEC and BPL “acted irrationally and capriciously based on the press statement of Dr. Donovan Moxey on August 11, 2019 disclosing that Wartsila would supply the engines for 123 MW and build the power plant at the expense of BEC and BPL without any bidding process”.

Bannister has since announced that government intends to invest $70 million to expand the Wartsila plant, which was completed last December.

BPL’s previous board was made up of Osborne, BPL Executive Chairman Patrick Rollins, Thompson, Ferron Bethell, BPL Chief Executive Officer Whitney Heastie and Dean.

In August 2018, a new board was set up, which consisted of BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey, Stephen Holowesko, James Moss, Debra Wood, Bethell and Viana Gardiner.

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 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.

In August 2018, 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.

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.

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