Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
FORMER Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis says he is not familiar with the contract of former Director of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Katherine Forbes-Smith, adding that the government is entitled to challenge any irregularities it claims to find.
“I have not seen the lawsuit and I am not at this point in time familiar with the contract,” he said.
Mrs Forbes-Smith, who was appointed to the post under the Minnis administration, is seeking contractual damages of over $408k for alleged breach of her contract. She alleged in a writ filed in the Supreme Court that the damages include $238,333.16 for 26 months’ salary; $65k in housing allowance; $32.5k in duty allowance, $6,500 in fuel allowance and $66k in gratuity entitled at the end of her contract.
Mrs Forbes-Smith had a four-year, fixed-term contract that would have expired on November 30, 2023.
Under the contract, Mrs Forbes-Smith, a former Senate president, was required to provide six months’ notice of her intention to terminate the agreement before the expiration date, but it had no provision allowing the DRA to terminate it before its end.
Dr Minnis said yesterday: “If the government feels that there’s wrongdoing, then the government should take the case to court. That’s what democracy is all about.”
Dr Minnis noted that under his administration the government won a case involving Melissa Hall, a former general manager of the Bridge Authority who sued the body in 2018, claiming breach of contract of employment.
Justice Ruth Bowe Darville said Ms Hall’s claim that she was entitled to three years’ notice before termination was “delusional” and a “clear and rank abuse of power”.
Dr Minnis said: “We thought (Ms Hall’s) contract should not have been a valid one and that it should not have stood because what that contract did, it gave an indefinite employment and standard contracts usually give a 30-day out clause. This particular contract, they made an amendment to give indefinite employment and an amendment to give three-year notice should we want to come out of it and that person sued us for $593k and a lot of other incidentals.
“What the case showed was this was an addendum done by the then-minister and it was proof read by the attorney at large at that time who was Obie Ferguson and in addition to that the legal document also pointed out that Rory Higgs - who was chairman of the Bridge Authority - in his submission in the court document, he said he was ordered by the minister to sign. And the secretary, who was Fowler, said that that was not his signature on the document, that that signature there was a forged signature. The government should pursue to find out who forged the man’s signature, it shouldn’t stop right there. That’s a serious offence.”
Asked specifically about the claim that Mrs Forbes-Smith’s contract had no out clause before the expiration date, Dr Minnis said: “I am not a lawyer, I am not a judge so I can’t make judgment on it. I have not seen what filings she has done, I am not familiar at this point in time with the contract. However, if the present government feels that there is any irregularity, the court system is there, go and challenge it just like we did with Melissa Hall and we won the case and thus saved the taxpayers over $700k.”