The couple made bankrupt after a court challenge to the election of Tara Rivers say they remain hopeful but regret the “broken promises” and recriminations in the wake of court testimony detailing allegations of reneged pledges of funding.
A court last week addressed the disposition of the assets of one-time United Democratic Party candidate Velma Powery-Hewitt and her husband Gordon Hewitt, longtime West Bay residents. In October, court trustees declared the couple bankrupt, unable to pay $205,000 in accumulated costs for a July 2013 Grand Court suit against MLA Ms. Rivers – subsequently named Minister for Education, Employment and Gender Affairs – challenging her eligibility to stand in national elections.
Speaking on Monday, after a hearing on Dec. 13 to determine what assets remained available to discharge the debt, Ms. Powery-Hewitt said the case had left the couple saddened, butfeeling they had made progress.
In his testimony, Mr. Hewitt said he had accepted a role as “a token plaintiff,” lending his name to the suit in an effort to disguise its UDP origins. He told Justice Ingrid Mangatal that both UDP head McKeeva Bush and party supporter, 2013 MLA candidate for George Town and businessman, Renard Moxam, had pledged financial support for the suit, but had ultimately reneged.
On his Facebook page on Dec. 15, Mr. Bush rejected Mr. Hewitt’s claims.
“People who know me … know that if I say I’m going to do something, I do it even when it hurts me.
“They know I help people in all corners of our Islands …I don’t hurt.
“So when any colleague of mine, past or present, or their consorts or those who have tried to unseat me as an elected official and fail, write outright lies, trying to make me look like the worst, I … only say that their hate, their jealousy, their prejudices, their outright meanness will just get the better of them.”
Since the 2013 Grand Court case before Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Mr. Bush and UDP Secretary Tessa Bodden have denied offering financial or other support to the couple’s lawsuit, despite Mr. Hewitt’s Dec. 13 testimony that they had received emails discussing the issue.
In court, Mr. Hewitt adduced an affidavit from lawyer Steve McField, who acted on the plaintiff’s behalf, claiming Mr. Moxam had paid the attorney a retainer, “and by doing so,” Ms. Powery-Hewitt said, committed himself to the arrangement, lamenting “how badly we have been treated.”
“Gordon and I are angry at ourselves,” she said. “We believed they [UDP officials] would be like us: We give someone our word and you keep your word – and now we are getting attacked on Facebook.”
In his Dec. 15 Facebook posting, Mr. Bush did not name the couple, but said “that when any a colleague of mine, past or present … [does] something, they should stand up and take the blame or the credit. They wanted it, they tried it, they went through the processes to do it.
“They would have counted the fallout if any! And if they had gotten what they wanted then all would have been good and dandy,” he wrote.
“They didn’t get, so now the faults are someone else’s?”
Ms. Powery-Hewitt declined to comment on the court proceedings, saying only that she accepted the “loser pays” principle, but questioned who lost the 2013 case in which Chief Justice Smellie vindicated Ms. Rivers of violating residence and loyalty clauses in the Cayman Islands Constitution: “You cannot apply that when the government itself says this was a question that had to be answered.”
In his August 2013 judgment, Chief Justice Smellie declined to assess costs in the case, and declared its adjudication a crucial constitutional question.
Ms. Powery-Hewitt said she had paid an initial $26,000 for the suit, subsequently adding another $10,000. “All I want is to get back my $36,000,” she said, proposing “the Attorney-General and the Elections Office, the government, should absorb the rest.
“Neither of us should be out of pocket,” Ms. Powery-Hewitt said. Ms. Rivers had already paid her defense costs, “and we should be reimbursed.”
The court, she said, ordered Mr. Hewitt to produce financial and other documents by Feb. 1, when a new hearing would be scheduled “at the first available date after that.”
She said she hoped the couple’s home and car could be preserved under a compromise.