Former Premier McKeeva Bush and retired Chief Officer Kearney Gomez have sharply disagreed about their culpability for dropping an approved proposal to clear the George Town Landfill, exchanging blame for a Grand Court lawsuit.
Mr. Gomez, now supervisor of elections, sharply contradicted claims by Mr. Bush – named as a respondent in the 16 May lawsuit – that he had “done nothing wrong” in a June 2011 decision to ignore recommendations from the Central Tenders Committee that Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. undertake the project, moving instead to open talks with the Dart Group.
The 11-page lawsuit, filed by purported Wheelabrator partner Peter Campbell, asked the Grand Court for a formal review of Mr. Bush’s move. Apart from naming UK Monarch Queen Elizabeth and the Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin as respondents, the suit specifies the Minister of District Administration and “The Premier”.
Through attorney H. Phillip Ebanks, Mr. Campbell described as unlawful and unreasonable the decision to drop Wheelabrator, asking the court to re-tender the multimillion-dollar, 25-year waste-management project; and award appropriate damages.
“Peter Campbell is a friend of mine, but if he feels he needs a judicial review, that is his prerogative,” Mr. Bush said. “I asked Mr. Gomez if anything were wrong in going in a different direction. He said no.”
Mr. Gomez recalled the conversation differently: “He can’t say that. I didn’t know anything about it until I read it in the press. We went through the papers and had set everything up to bring the [Wheelabrator] people down the next week. The tech team and [Deputy Permanent Secretary) Tristan Hydes called me and asked what the hell was going on. I knew nothing about it.
“If I had known in advance, I would have told him he’d have to re-tender the whole thing. He can’t just say that,” Mr. Gomez said.
In a simultaneous twist, the New Hampshire-based Wheelabrator denied any local partnership with Mr. Campbell or that it had authorised any court action on its behalf.
Company spokesman Dave Tooley told the Caymanian Compass: “Wheelabrator is not party to, nor have we authorised, any application for judicial review or any other legal action related to this matter.
“Although Wheelabrator held discussions with Mr. Campbell in 2011 regarding a potential contractual relationship, no agreement was ever reached and no partnership exists,” he said.
The Central Tenders Committee in late 2010 selected Wheelabrator ahead of nine other bidders for waste-management and waste-to-energy contracts at the 58-acre George Town landfill. The panel rejected two bidders outright, and ranked Dart near the bottom.
Addressing Wheelabrator’s apparent rejection of both his lawsuit and partnership, Mr. Campbell said he did not require the company’s approval for his application.
“I brought them to the negotiating table and I am the Cayman Islands entity. They have to have a local partner, but you do not need to have a signed agreement to have a contract,” Mr. Campbell said, citing standard contract law.
“They do not have to authorise the court action. I authorised it. The government took eight months to negotiate this and I was the one who spent the time and the money on this and I am bringing the action.
“They may say no, but I have all the documentation for the court and a sworn affidavit from the head negotiator. I have the letters to acknowledge I was the Cayman partner. We never finalised it because the scope of the project was never well-defined and we were rushing against time, negotiating at the back end.
“But Wheelabrator was anxious to move forward. The committee asked Wheelabrator to identify their local partner and they named Peter Campbell. I will have someone in court to testify to that,” Mr. Campbell said.
In a further wrinkle, the Dart Group said it had never signed a contract for the remediation project – nor for a mandate to build a waste-management facility in Midland Acres, just east of Bodden Town, although the company and its DECCO engineering subsidiary remain in talks regarding both developments.
Dart Realty Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak said the company had never reached any agreements for the projects: “Neither Dart Realty, DECCO Ltd., nor any Dart-related company has a contract with government relating to remediation of the George Town Landfill, a new waste-management facility or waste-to-energy.”
Minster for District Administration Juliana O’Connor-Connolly told the Caymanian Compass she had not been notified of the Grand Court action, but declined to comment, saying “I don’t speak to it. I am not named personally, so we refer it to the attorney general’s chambers and take advice.”
If successful, Mr. Campbell’s application could overturn moves to remediate the landfill and replace it with the Midland Acres facility.
Chairman of the Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free Alain Beiner welcomed the judicial review application, describing his group as “very happy to see it”.
“We have been saying for a long time that the June 2011 decision was illegal and pointing out that the Central Tenders Committee had rated Dart [and its DECCO tender] as the worst,” he said.
He cited violations of the UK’s divestiture law regarding crown land, the failure of the administration to value the Midland Acres property accurately and abrogation of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility regarding value-for-money.
“A re-tender is the only way to proceed,” he said.