Waste Control Takes Mayor To Court For Contempt For 2.3 Mil Dollar Debt Last night 7news broke the story that Belize Waste Control was taking Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley to Court for contempt - and that the Mayor was facing a committal warrant.
It's for a multi million dollars arbitration award dating back to 2009 - which the council did not pay. Now, the debt - with interest - is 2.3 million dollars. A court ordered the Council to pay it from last year - again, they didn't and so today Waste Control's Attorney Fred Lumor took the Mayor to the Supreme Court to ask Justice Michelle Arana to cite him for contempt. He backed that up with a committal warrant, so that if she cited him - he would be committed to jail!
High stakes and it went before Justice Arana in her chambers this morning. Mayor Bradley, supported by his councilors waited patiently to learn the outcome of that audience before the judge.
When Lumor exited the court, he told the media that the judge decided to give the council a few months breathing room:
Fred Lumor, Attorney for Belize Waste Control
"This morning we made an application for committal of the Mayor of Belize City Council. Basically its an application that a court should sight the Mayor for contempt of court. Basically this matter has been going on for about 10 years now. There was a time when City Council allowed other companies to be collecting garbage all over Belize City which cause substantial loss to my client Belize Waste Control. We went to an application in 2004. The arbitration panel was composed of Mr. Michael Young, Rodwell Williams and Mr. Anrew Marshalleck; all of them senior counsel. In June of 2005, an award was made, we were dissatisfied with the award and we apply to the Supreme Court to set it aside. Belize City Council came to court to say the award is reasonable and the court should accept it and we agreed that the award be accepted. No payment was made and so we apply to the Supreme Court and the award of the arbitrators was entered as a judgment of the Supreme Court. City Council applied to the Supreme Court that they should pay the debt weekly in the sum of $10,000. this was in the year 2009. At this time the lawyer for City Council was the present Mayor Darrell Bradley. Not a cent was paid, so in 2011 we apply to the Supreme Court that a refusal of municipal authority to pay a debt ordered by the Supreme Court contravenes the constitutional right of Belize Waste Control. The court in a decision delivered on the 2nd April last year 2012 agreed that the failure to pay contravenes the rights of Belize Waste Control and ordered City Council to pay the debt forthwith. This was on the 2nd April, 2012. Not a cent has been paid. we wrote to the City Council in May of last year and we wrote to them in June of last year, we wrote to them in July of last year and no payment was made. We applied for contempt proceedings - what we called committal proceedings against the Mayor of Belize City Council. The case was called up on the 13th December last year and each occasion the case is called up they asked for postponement to enable them to make arrangements to pay this money to Belize Waste Control."
"As of today I can tell you that the total debt owed under the judgment is about $2.3 million dollars. Not one cent has been paid. Today the judge called the lawyers into chamber and the City Council has given an undertaking that they will file an affidavit about the financial position of the Council and make some substantial payment and seek to make arrangements to settle the balance on terms to be proposed at court. The matter has been adjourned to the 22nd April to give the Council sufficient time to resolve this matter by then."
According to Lumor, the Council has not given a single reason as to why the award has not been paid, and an interest rate of approximately $260 per day continues to accrue. We attempted to ask the Mayor when he exited the court about why the debt has not been paid, and how this litigation move by BWC affects his relationship with the company. After all, they did try to get him imprisoned to force him to action:
Mayor Darrell Bradley
"The simple fact is that it is a large debt. When we took office we try to structure our debt obligations so that we can express to people publicly that the City Council is 100% credit worthy. Whatever contracts we have we intend to fulfilled. Whatever debt obligations we have we tend to fulfill, but the simple answer is that it's a large debt and so that by its very definition require some process to be put in place so that we could satisfy whatever obligations we have 100%."
"In retrospect that something could have been done differently in terms of communications and dialogue with both sides. This is a judgment debt, it is something which attaches to the City Council, it is something which we are dealing with. We are putting in place a process which will advance this issue to the satisfaction of both sides. The sanitation contracts and I've said it before are a significant - it's a liability - it accounts for 40% of our outlays and this is not something which has started with this present Council. This is something which has originated from 2007. Every single year, every single City Council has have difficulty in meetings its obligations. We are handling this matter responsibly, we have dialogue with them. Of course they are fully free to take whatever steps they have including court actions and we will represent ourselves reasonably and responsibly."
"Any kind of action like this and this is why we choose to address the media in this form. Any kind of action like this does affect the credibility of the City Council and this is why we are saying that the City Council is going to act responsibly. Of course I have my personal feelings in terms of the sanitation contracts and dealing with the contractors but when you in the office of Mayor you have to think how your actions affect the credibility of even future Councils."
"You have indicated this is the claimants right. Will this affect your relationship with them going forward?"
Mayor Darrell Bradley
"No and it have not because we have other situation notwithstanding the fact that we have had litigation. I've mentioned that we still have discussions and meetings with them and we are continuing in terms of the collection of garbage has been uninterrupted and our payments to them has been made good."
The matter goes back before Justice Arana on April 22. The City Council also has a 2.4 million dollar debt to BML - the company that cleans the streets.
These debts were accrued and judgments delivered under past councils.