By Nico Scavella
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOX Hill MP Shonel Ferguson and the vice president of her investment company have given conflicting information concerning the settlement of the more than $70,000 it is claimed their company owes in real property taxes concerning the maintenance and operation of a building it assumed responsibility for some 13 years ago, court documents allege.
Court documents show how Daniel Ferguson claimed Turtle Creek Investments Limited (TCI) would arrange a “payment plan” with the Department of Inland Revenue to settle the $74,069.22 it owed from not paying real property taxes since it entered into a hire purchase agreement for the building in December 2005.
However, Ms Ferguson, TCI’s president, asserted in a sworn affidavit that both her company and the building’s owner, Daybreak Holdings Limited, agreed that all outstanding real property taxes would be settled at the sale of the building in question.
And Ms Ferguson’s claims about the agreed sale of the building, which houses the Crab House and Seafood Emporium, have been adamantly denied by Daybreak Holdings, which has since labeled Ms Ferguson’s assertions about it as “nothing short of ludicrous”.
Additionally, Michael Craig Roberts, an attorney at Graham Thompson & Co, denied a portion of Ms Ferguson’s affidavit that claimed that both TCI and Daybreak Holdings agreed that he would have the latter provide a “figure for settlement” regarding the interest component of the hire purchase agreement.
Mr Craig “unequivocally” stated that Ms Ferguson was “incorrect” in her assertions because he “at no time” put forward a proposal for settlement as he had “no instructions” to do so.
Additionally, Mr Roberts said in his affidavit that having reviewed the hire purchase agreement as per the request of Daybreak Holdings’ president Donna Davis, he also came to the conclusion that due to the “various breaches” by TCI, Daybreak Holdings could take the position that the agreement “should be deemed terminated” and possession of the property returned to the owner.
Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis’ name is mentioned in both Ms Ferguson’s and Mr Roberts’ affidavits as having some involvement in the dispute as a mediator of sorts; however, Mr Roberts claims Mr Davis was “never retained” in the matter, thus providing another reason why he offered no proposal concerning the interest settlement.
Nonetheless, Justice Ian Winder, the presiding judge, has requested that counsel in the matter, namely Christina Galanos for Daybreak Holdings and Ed Turner for TCI, let him know beforehand if Mr Davis will be called to testify in the matter, for “obvious” reasons.
Yesterday, The Tribune exclusively reported how TCI owed $74,069.22 in real property taxes as of December 6, 2017, in alleged contravention of the hire purchase agreement it entered into for the building.
The Tribune also revealed how TCI allegedly owes the Water and Sewerage Corporation $22,173.15 as of July this year when it was disconnected, having not paid “any utilities and insurance” on the building for at least two years. The last time TCI paid its water bill was in July of 2014, it is alleged.
Concerning the building’s insurance, TCI has allegedly not paid any insurance premiums for the past three to four years, something that caused the building’s owner to recently pay $15,963.75 to J S Johnson Insurance Agents & Brokers in a bid to bring the insurance policy current.
Also, it is alleged that TCI has not paid its light bill for “some time now,” and as it stands, is currently utilising a generator for electricity.
Additionally, TCI has allegedly not paid any of the $10,833 monthly payments it agreed to pay for the building in question since September of 2016, resulting in the owner receiving no revenue from the agreement, despite the company currently subleasing a portion of the building for $12,000 per month.
Daybreak Holdings, the plaintiff, further alleges that notwithstanding the various breaches, TCI has “failed and/or refused” to bring the hire purchase agreement current or to vacate the building.
But Ms Ferguson is claiming that subsequent to entering into the hire purchase agreement, TCI opened several businesses in the building and made “timely” monthly payments. However, she said as the economy declined and crime escalated in the area, both parties agreed to reduce the monthly payment to $5,000 until the $1.35m was liquidated.
When the economy didn’t improve, she said both parties agreed to put the building up for sale and distribute the proceeds between them. In particular, Ms Ferguson claimed both parties agreed that upon the building’s sale, TCI would be reimbursed for the equity it put into the building.
Ms Ferguson also claims that as of August 17 of this year, her company has paid Daybreak Holdings $1,548,609, in addition to investing over $700,000 in renovations for what she claimed was initially a building in a “dilapidated state”.
Ms Ferguson claims that as the $1.5m TCI paid to Daybreak Holdings exceeds the sum owing on the hire purchase agreement, and that as both parties concluded that the principal amount under the agreement was settled, the only outstanding issue was the amount of the outstanding interest.
Concerning the outstanding real property taxes, Ms Ferguson claimed in her affidavit: “The parties agreed that all outstanding real property taxes would be settled at the sale of the building.”
However, in a supplemental affidavit to respond to Ms Ferguson’s assertion, Ms Davis enclosed a copy of an email communication to her from Mr Ferguson, with Ms Ferguson’s alleged email copied in on the correspondence, where he stated on February 5 of this year that he would arrange a payment plan with Inland Revenue.
Concerning Mr Roberts’ involvement in the matter, Ms Ferguson claimed that at some point, TCI received a call from Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis informing it that Graham Thompson & Co was making inquiries into the financial status of the hire purchase agreement.
Ms Ferguson claims that after briefing the attorneys of the financial status, both parties, meaning TCI and Daybreak Holdings, agreed that Mr Roberts would have Daybreak Holdings provide a figure for settlement regarding the interest.
However, Mr Roberts claims that after being asked to review the hire purchase agreement by Daybreak Holdings, and with a view to “trying to find some means of settling this dispute” between the parties without resorting to litigation, he took it upon himself to reach out to Mr Davis whom he was told “knows very well the beneficial owners of Turtle Creek.”
Mr Roberts said he spoke with Mr Davis on the telephone on one occasion and mentioned to him both TCI’s and Daybreak Holdings’ position on the matter. He said Mr Davis subsequently told him that should he be instructed to put in writing what he had mentioned, he (Mr Davis) felt he would be able to have the dispute resolved out of court by speaking to the beneficial owners of TCI.
He said he was “never instructed thereafter to pursue the matter further with him,” meaning Mr Davis.
Thus, Mr Roberts claimed that contrary to Ms Ferguson’s assertions, the conversation with Mr Davis was merely to see “if he felt that he could be instrumental in having the dispute settled out of court.”
“…At no time did I put forward a proposal for settlement for and on behalf of (Daybreak Holdings) as I had no instructions to do so and furthermore Mr Philip Davis had not been retained in the matter,” Mr Roberts claimed. The matter continues in front of Justice Winder next week.