In July of this year, businessman, pastor and political candidate Denny Grijalva took the Orange Walk Town Council to court.
Mr Grijalva’s company, De-Mar’s Stone Construction Limited, was hired by the former UDP-majority Town Council to pave several streets in the town, and charged them $188,000 – and that the council paid him less than half. He says the UDP council agreed to pay him the balance in monthly installments, but then the current PUP council was elected, who he says have not honoured the agreement.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Young ruled in favor of Denny Grijalva and De-Mar’s and against the Town Council, who must pay the debt.
Mr Grijalva’s attorney, Darrell Bradley, told our colleagues at Love FM about why the Town Council was at fault.
“The decision was this morning. Alifa Elrington was in court taking the decision, I was in another court but essentially what the defendants, The Orange Walk Town Council, were saying from the very beginning is that they do not dispute that the work was actually done.
They actually took a series of technical defenses that the then Mayor of Orange Walk did not have the authority to enter the contract, that the seal, certain issues in relation to the seal being a fix to the contract and certain things like that so the defense was always technical, and we put up a technical response to say that well if you were dealing with the person who is the Chief Executive Officer of Towns, it is different when you are dealing with Belize City. The Chief Executive Officer is the City Administrator but in towns, the Chief Executive Officer is still the Mayor.
When you’re dealing with the Mayor, when the Mayor as Chief Executive Officer, acting Qua Chief Executive Officer, engages an outside person to do street works, that outside person would not have known that there is a City Council meeting, that there is a resolution, that certain internal procedures were complied with, to ensure that this contract was properly serviced out.
So that essentially the judge came down on the side of the claimant, on certain significant points. Of course we didn’t win all the points, but essentially the claimant, Mr. Grijalvez, sued for the debt, and the judge awarded him the debt, because you are dealing with the Mayor of the municipality, and if there are any technical deficiencies, that is something that the City Council has to deal with, and that is on the fault of the city council and a third party, dealing in good faith with a municipality, or dealing with any company doesn’t have to inquire in relation to the bonafiders of that decision or what’s going on internally.
I think a very good decision. We haven’t gotten a written decision yet. We haven’t won on all points, but essentially what Mr. Grijalva was suing for was a debt amount, and he was awarded the entire amount.”
Denny Grijalva, who is also the UDP standard bearer for Orange Walk Central, counts the victory as significant. He spoke to us afterward.
“It’s not about the money really. It’s about setting a precedent. I believe that we need to be sincere. If you owe and owe and you need to pay. My company wouldn’t be sending them a bill if they didn’t owe.
So it’s not really about the money, and the streets are for our town. So I think we have to give them a break. We have to talk to them and see how we can come with a good solution.”
Mr Grijalva says that while the case was never about the money, it is about the Council honoring its debts.
“I feel good about it, because I think justice was served. I believe that we gave the town council all kinds of way to pay the bill, and they were trying to go around the bush, and finally we won the case. I am happy about it.”
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay represented the Town Council in court.
Although Supreme Court Justice Sonia Young made a judgment against Mayor Kevin Bernard and the Orange Walk Town Council, the Mayor remains adamant that they are not entitled to this debt, and said they will be contemplating on appealing the court ruling.
“The contract that was in question was dated and signed in July of 2011. The minutes of the meeting [showed] that the Council had discussions… in August of 2011. This was a month and plus after the Mayor had already signed a contract that he had not been brought to the Council.
In addition to that, the Mayor went ahead and signed a payment agreement, from February of 2012. I think it was on the 15th or so of February 2012, just a few weeks before the March 7th 2012 election.
We are considering to appeal the case at this point in time. We are awaiting further advice from our attorney.”
We asked Mayor Bernard if he saw this as a blow to the PUP Town Council administration, and a possible advancement of the UDP to overthrow his administration, but he believes it is not his PUP Town council that looks bad.
“It’s just to show the previous UDP administration has mismanaged our affairs, and now this Town Council, this PUP Town Council if you want to put it that way, is now paying far more.
On another note, the Mayor announced to us that he will be running in the upcoming municipal elections.
We also understand that Mayor Kevin Bernard had his first child on Tuesday. We extended our congratulations.