Court date set for Bannister’s $1 mil. BPL suit

Court date set for Bannister’s $1 mil. BPL suit
BPL board member Nicola Thompson

Osborne seeking over $588,000 in damages

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A court date has been set for the $1.1 million lawsuit against Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister for his role in the terminations of former Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Executive Chairman Darnell Osborne and former BPL board members Nick Dean and Nicola Thompson, Eyewitness News Online can confirm.

Osborne, Dean and Thompson have each claimed they were wrongfully removed against the provisions of the Electricity Act, from their posts in August, 2018.

Attorney Alfred Sears represents Osborne, who is seeking $588,800 in damages for wrongful dismissal.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister and the attorney general of The Bahamas are named as defendants in the action.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister

In an amendment statement of claim, obtained by Eyewitness News Online, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation and Bahamas Power and Light Company Limited have also been named as the second and third defendants.

The amended statement of claim is dated August 21, 2019.

Osborne was appointed to the board effective July 1, 2017.

The statement claims Osborne’s tenure of the board of BPL went smoothly until around May 2018 when the minister “adopted a hostile position” towards her around issues related to the attempts to “carve out certain areas of Shell NA LNG and Affiliates (Shell) power purchase agreement…”.

BPL’s request for proposals for 80 megawatts of temporary generation for a supply of fuel, concluded with Shell North America being awarded a contract to construct a 220-megawatt  liquefied natural gas power plan and re-gasification facilities near Clifton Pier Power Station.

The deal was questioned in quarters of the public, including the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce at the time.

The amended statement noted that during an August 11, 2019, press conference, BPL Chairman Dr. Donavan Moxey announced Wartsila would supply the engines for the 132 megawatt plant without disclosing whether there had been a bid process.

Osborne’s damages include: $240,000, representing salary of $60,000 per year for the remaining four years under the terms of her contractual appointment; $144,000 representing director fees of $36,000 per year for the remaining four years; $48,000 representing director fees of $12,000 per year; $80,000 for benefit fees of $5,000 per quarters for the remaining term of her contract; $19,200 representing gas allowance of $4,800 for the four years; and $57,600 for full medical insurance of $14,400 per year.

She is also seeking nearly $150,000 in special damages representing the loss of income since her dismissal last August.

Osborne, Thompson and Dean, were replaced by a new board amid a series of allegations.

Bannister said at the time that the relationships among old board members had deteriorated and they were at odds on almost every critical issue to the detriment of the power company, which he said ultimately required new leadership.

The former board members in question have refuted the claims, calling them misleading and untrue. They also claimed political interference and continuous disrespect were the root causes of critical issues among the board.

Bannister admitted there was political interference but claimed it was after he learned BPL foot the bill for Osborne’s makeup bill and other bills — a claim she was refuted.

Last year, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he ordered a probe into why the former board was fired. He later said an international firm was appointed to conduct the probe. However, there has been no public pronouncement on the status of that probe since.

A court date has been set for December 13.