Government silent on settlement costs
The burgeoning costs of fighting a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by its former police commissioner eventually forced a settlement in the case, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin admitted Thursday.
The Caymanian Compass reported earlier this week that government spent an estimated $1.8 million on outside legal expertise related to the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation since January 2008.
That probe eventually led to former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan’s 2008 ouster, even though he was never arrested or charged with a crime.
The lion’s share of that $1.8 million went to fight the 2009 lawsuit filed by Mr. Kernohan and initiate a separate action against former Operation Tempura senior investigator Martin Bridger to prevent him from using certain government documents in his own defense during the Kernohan lawsuit.
“Litigation of this nature can become very costly,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “By the date of the settlement, the government had expended well over a million dollars, although the matter had not yet reached the trial stage.”
Mr. McLaughlin said government lawyers anticipated the trial could have lasted five weeks and that it was “in the interests of both parties” to settle the case.
“Had the government been unsuccessful at trial, it would have been required to pay not only its own legal expenses, but also Mr. Kernohan’s costs,” the premier said.
Mr. McLaughlin declined to provide any details of the Kernohan lawsuit settlement, which he said were subject to confidentiality agreements via a court order. The amount of the monetary settlement to Mr. Kernohan was also not disclosed.
Aside from the settlement, the premier noted that Mr. Kernohan’s lawsuit against Mr. Bridger was still before the court, even though government had settled its interests in the case. “The government is aware of the calls for the terms of the settlement be made public, this call is understandable,” he said. “A lot more needs to be said about this sad chapter in the Cayman Islands history. I look forward to the day when a more fulsome statement can be made.”
East End MLA Arden McLean questioned what the premier intended to make public and when, given that it was the Cabinet that agreed to the confidentiality terms of the settlement along with representatives for Mr. Kernohan.
“The only way a settlement can be made is between two parties,” Mr. McLean said. “The government has admitted that the seven members of Cabinet approved this decision.
“At some stage, there has to be payment of that money. I am a representative of this country. When will I have to lend my approval or my support to pay this money and when do the people know?”
Typically, there is a budget line item in each year’s spending plan setting out the amount government expects to pay in legal settlements.
However, Mr. McLaughlin seemed to state that might not be the case with the Kernohan lawsuit settlement. “This is a court order,” he said. “This Legislative Assembly, no matter how powerful we think we may be, is also subject to the law.
“If the court issues an order which says that the terms of the settlement are confidential, there’s nothing this parliament can do to change that.”