BELIZE CITY, Fri. Oct. 4, 2019– In May 2018, by a unanimous vote, the People’s United Party-controlled Belize City Council decided to terminate City Administrator, Candice Miller, for gross dereliction of duty. Miller, who was granted a new four-year employment contract just prior to the March 2018 municipal elections by the then United Democratic Party mayor, Darrell Bradley, sued the Council for wrongful termination.
The Council filed a counter suit, suing Miller for the one million dollars in costs that were incurred by the council due to her failure to advise the incoming council that they needed to file a defense in a lawsuit that was filed against the Council by Belize Waste Control, one of the sanitation companies doing business with the city.
Miller’s wrongful termination case was argued this week before Supreme Court Justice, Courtenay Abel, and this afternoon, the judge, reading from a twenty-page judgment, ruled in favor of Miller. Out of two witnesses who gave evidence during the trial, the judge said he believed one witness and did not believe the other witness, calling into question the witness’ veracity.
Miller, in her lawsuit, was seeking compensation in the region of $400,000 for breach of contract, besides special damages.
After Justice Abel read his judgment, however, all the parties went into the judge’s chambers and when they emerged, no one wanted to specify how much the court had awarded to Miller.
Based on the amount she was suing the Belize City Council for, and the damages that were awarded to her, it is estimated that the figure stands close to a half a million dollars, although this has not been officially confirmed as yet, but the figure will have to be made public, because the payment will be made with Belize City taxpayers’ monies.
The City Council was relying on three grounds to justify Miller’s termination. Firstly, Miller had failed to advise the incoming Mayor Bernard Wagner that the council had to file a defense for a lawsuit brought by the sanitation company, Belize Waste Control.
In the arguments she presented to contest this ground, Miller’s attorney, Magali Perdomo, argued that the Council had a Legal Department which could have advised the Mayor, while the Council’s attorney, Anthony Sylvestre, argued that it was Miller’s responsibility to have advised the Mayor about filing a defense.
The second ground on which the Council based its termination was that Miller had failed in her fiduciary duty to the Council when she paid out some $59,000 to one Gilly Franklyn for works purportedly done on the city streets. The new Council had found that the city did not receive value for its money, and had estimated the work to be valued at far less.
Thirdly, Miller had failed to follow-up on collecting a $20,000 interest-free loan from Enrique Carballo, the chairperson for the Mayor’s association, who was given the loan by Mayor Darrell Bradley to assist him with the purchase of a vehicle.
In court, the argument centered around whether or not Miller had sent out a demand letter to Carballo. Under cross-examination from Perdomo, Mayor Wagner, who has considerable banking experience, insisted that the letter Miller sent was not a demand letter. The judge, however, did not agree with the position taken by the Mayor on this point.
After the hearing, Mayor Wagner was asked if the Council will appeal the decision, and he replied that he will have to take advice from his attorneys.
Miller told the media that she felt vindicated by the court’s decision.
The Council, if it will appeal, has 21 days from when the Justice Abel delivers the perfected judgment to file its appeal.