BVI News

Confirmation? Premier hints that taxpayers funding Speaker’s legal fees in D4 case

Premier Andrew Fahie. (BVI News photo)

By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff

While pointing out that the case is still before the court, Premier Andrew Fahie has hinted that the legal fees for Speaker of the House Julian Willock in the ongoing legal battle with Mark Vanterpool are being paid with taxpayer dollars.

The Premier made that suggestion while answering questions from Opposition Leader Marlon Penn at Friday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.

The essence of Penn’s questions was: what is the estimated cost of the aforesaid legal fees and the amount billed and paid by Willock so far.

In response, Premier Fahie made it clear that Penn’s questions were “valid”. He then promised to provide detailed answers “upon completion of the matter in the courts”.

“This is in keeping with section 17.1 (G) VI: of the Standing Orders which states quotes “A question shall not be asked about any matter pending before any court of justice; or which reflects on the decision of the court of justice,” Premier Fahie explained.

Penn then noted that an aspect of the case was already completed because the matter is now being appealed in court. On that premise, Penn reasoned: “Part of the question asked is if the government is paying for it. At least that part should be answered.”

The Premier, however, responded: “The matter is not through as yet, there is an appeal and a stay on the case which has held up any decision on it.”

Penn then questioned whether “the people will have to wait a few months to see how their monies will be spent”.

The Premier did not respond.

Will tax dollars fund appeal?

Penn then proceeded to ask whether government will be funding the Court of Appeal leg of the matter. However, Premier Fahie maintained that the information being sought by Penn will be furnished after the completion of the case.

“This case will not be heard for a few months, I understand that already some $80,000 have already been spent by the Opposition, so the people of this territory deserve answers,” Penn asserted.

Fahie then replied: “With due respect to the Leader of the Opposition, I never told him that the taxpayers will not hear how much money is spent. But we cannot have the rules of the House and break them so easily because a few people, well — more than a few, want to know.”

“The Standing Orders of the House are very clear and as soon as the matter is properly disposed of before the court if it is 10 cents, $10, $100,000, $200,000 I will come to this House and tell the taxpayers how their money is spent. Whatever the public needs to know about their monies, I will tell them.”

Penn, in response, said: “Premier, I thank you for confirming that taxpayers are paying the bill.” to which Premier Fahie made no reply.

Did Premier talk to Speaker about case?

In the meantime, the Opposition Leader queried from the Premier whether he has had any discussions with the Speaker about his decision not to swear in Vanterpool in light of the initial High Court ruling.

“If so, could the Honourable Premier tell this Honourable House what is his position on the matter and whether it was shared with the Honourable Speaker?” Penn asked.

In answering that question, the Premier said: “With due respect to the Leader of the Opposition, you will know that nobody in this House can direct the Speaker of the House.”

“However I will state that given the nature of this and how the question is phrased I must repeat for the member that his question is valid and the information the member is seeking will furnished to this honourable House in detail upon completion of the matter in the courts. The member would have known that the Speaker has appealed the case, and there is a stay on the matter.”

Should Speaker preside over matters relating to himself?

Meanwhile, government legislator Carvin Malone questioned whether Willock, who was sitting as Speaker while the questions were being fielded, should recuse himself since the questions were about him.

“Shouldn’t the Deputy Speaker be presiding at this time? I might be out of order, but I’m just asking,” Malone said.

Speaker Willock then responded that he has no problem recusing himself if that was the wish of the House. No member raised any objections so Willock remained.

Opposition legislator Julian Fraser later rose to state his discomfort of having the Speaker sit through questions. But by that time, the questions had just concluded.

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16 Comments

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  1. Transparency says:

    Where’s this transparency you preach so much about?

    Tell us directly who is paying the legal and how much.

    I know you’re pretty big but just move to the side and stop hiding the fact and the truth behind your f** a**

    Like 33
    Dislike 7
    • To transparency says:

      I heard the Premier said he will disclose everything about the monies as soon as the appeal case is finished so I don’t understand what the frustration is about. You & Mark go look for our 8 million dollar plane first.

      Like 6
      Dislike 27
  2. @Transparency says:

    I don’t see what your problem is other than rude and stupid. The law does not allow the Premier or any member of the House to speak about anything in relation to the case until the courts is finished with the matter so stop being ignorant.

    Like 4
    Dislike 20
    • Excuse me says:

      The law may not ‘allow’ it but it does not ‘deny’ it. Furthermore, asking who paying legal and court fees is not giving information about the case. He can say who’s paying even though he does not yet know the final amount to be paid.

      Like 16
      Dislike 2
  3. Okay says:

    I don’t see why these ndp people making a big deal about this but silent about the millions Mark and his ndp partners still cannot account for including the $7.2mill plane and over spending the pier park project by $40mill. All of this noise about the speaker is just politics.

    Like 6
    Dislike 23
  4. :) says:

    We know the answer already. Willock isn’t suing as a private citizen. He is suing as the speaker and therefore government will be the one paying the bill unless Willock successfully appeal and the judge rules that Mark has to pay the legal fees.

    Like 17
    Dislike 1
    • This is.. says:

      .. if the government puts in a claim for Mark to reimburse legal fees. It’s not automatic for the court to demand that the loser pay the other back for legal fees

  5. sam the man says:

    This is going to be a very costly slice of humble pie that the speaker refuses to swallow until he is forced to do so – what a waste of money…….

    Like 27
    Dislike 1
  6. FACTS says:

    where is our $7.2 M I am sure the court case will not reach there

    Like 4
    Dislike 16
  7. ... says:

    I must say Willock was very gracious and professional willing to move from the seat while the questions were being asked

    Like 1
    Dislike 21
    • Reality says:

      surprising how gracious he is with causing such large expenditure of tax payers money!lets hear it for the speaker….

      Like 17
      Dislike 2
  8. Just say it says:

    The legal fees etc is being paid by the taxpayers money. I don’t see the need to wait on the appeal to say so when the money was already spent and accounted for by the ministry of finance in which the Premier is in charge. It’s very straight forward, it’s not a personal matter that was carry to court(which already gave it’s verdict)so therefore the fundings is from the taxpayers. Pls people don’t tell me about hate etc because it is the truth whether you like it or not. My only issue with the Premier is, just say it like it is, it wouldn’t change nothing

    Like 8
    Dislike 2
  9. huh says:

    might as well i stop pay tax

    Like 7
    Dislike 1
  10. Well, well says:

    And you guys think anyone is going to take you all seriously. The BVI is a laughing stock to the World. Cruise Ship jobs but the low end of the totem pole jobs. A district with out a Rep. A speaker of the house refusing to swear in a member. What’s next, building a huge wall around district 4 to seperate the residents of district 4 from the rest of the Island.

    Like 7
    Dislike 2
  11. Yeah says:

    All the talk about who is or is not paying for this or that. Somehow it seems as though we’re overlooking an important fact – the reason for the court action in the first place.

    Is it really about a timely letter or about to whom it was addressed? No!

    If we looked at Willock’s track record and when and why he may have been let go from various positions we’ll see that the NDP and more particularly MV’s department were responsible. So is all this legal mess just revenge? Oh how sad it is to waste the people’s time and money.

    Like 5
    Dislike 1

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