Election challenge costly

Artists and other plaintiff’s might have to pay

Two Cayman Islands lawmakers who had their May elections to the Legislative Assembly challenged now want to recoup legal expenses for court proceedings against them.

A hearing was held in judge’s chambers last week regarding the issue of repayment of costs to Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour and Health Minister Mark Scotland. Caymanian artist Gordon Solomon and a handful of others challenged the legitimacy of the candidates’ election to office.

At the time, the source of contention between the parties was the issue of whether the candidates declared their interests in government contracts before the deadline stipulated in the constitution.

With regard to Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Solomon, who has spoken on behalf of the group, said he knew nothing of the scheduled court date.

He added that he had only learned about the hearing through the press and no one from the group he was involved with had contacted him about the hearing.

Attorneys representing Mr. Solomon and the group did attend the session.

‘My lawyers are dealing with the issue and that is the only comment I am at liberty to make at this time regarding the proceeding,’ Mr. Solomon said. ‘If I have to pay I will. That is a part of standing up; either way, I will still be standing.’

The artist added that he had no intention of petitioning the public for money if the court ordered that he and the group was liable.

The candidates were represented by well-known attorneys including Lord Pannick, Michael Alberga and Christopher McDuff.

According to Mr. Scotland, the legal fees that he and Mr. Seymour incurred were in the region of six figures.

‘People think the government is picking up that bill but it is not so and the truth of the matter is that Dwayne and myself have had to go to the bank to get financing to pay these legal fees,’ he said.

The minister added that when people ask why they are seeking costs, his answer would be ‘why not?’ He said the scope of personal debt the candidates are now facing is significant.

He said if the group had calculated what they were doing properly, they would have known just what they were getting into.

‘This is behind us now and it is in the hands of our attorneys. We tried to tell this group what they were doing had no basis but they would not listen,’ said Mr. Scotland.

The health minister said that they were moving on principle and indicated that neither he nor Mr. Seymour attended the court session.

‘Our attorneys have full control of the matter at this point,’ remarked Mr. Scotland.

According to legal experts, only one-third of the MLA’s costs may be recoupable.

Both of the Bodden Town candidates were found not to be in breach of the law when the case brought against them was thrown out of court by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie on 3 August, 2009.

The Chief Justice ruled that the challenge was brought too late and that what was filed was not in the form of an election petition.

Under the Elections Law the challenge should have been made 21 days after Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour were officially announced as winners of the Bodden Town election. The challenge was made 26 days later, which was five days too late.

‘If time limits by the Elections Law can be by-passed, then there would be no time limits at all. That cannot be a proper interpretation of the constitutional intent,’ said the Chief Justice.

Neither the court nor the attorneys addressed the correctness of the issue of contracts allegedly not being filed before the deadline.