BEC and BPL to be added to Osborne lawsuit as ‘necessary parties’

BEC and BPL to be added to Osborne lawsuit as ‘necessary parties’
Former Bahamas Power and Light Chairman, Darnell Osborne.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A Supreme Court judge has ordered that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC)  and Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) be included as ‘necessary parties’ to the lawsuit of former BPL executive chairman Darnell Osborne and two former Board members.

Justice Indra Charles ruled on an application to amend a writ of summons and statement of claim and determine whether the amendment would cause injustice to the other parties found that BEC and BPL are necessary parties to the dispute.

In the January 23 order, the judge also concluded that including them as parties to the lawsuit ‘would not embarrass or prejudice them nor the other defendants”.

It was noted that BEC and BPL may be called upon to compensate or contribute to compensation for damages and losses, therefore making them necessary parties to the action.

Justice Charles agreed with counsel for the plaintiffs Alfred Sears, QC that the proposed amendments would not prejudice the defendants as they contended and that the amendments are ‘necessary to determine all of the questions in controversy between the parties”.

Justice Charles stated: “The Plaintiffs were members of the boards of BEC and BPL and have raised in the pleadings issues of corporate governance and being wrongful terminated from those boards.

“In this regard, it seems plain that BEC and BPL are necessary parties to this action and, in my considered opinion, ought to have been included as Defendants to the action from outset. There is no evidence of what actual prejudice has or may have been caused to BEC and BPL for which it cannot be compensated in costs.”

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

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

Three former Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Board members, including the board’s former chairperson Darnell Osborne are suing Mr Bannister for damages for wrongful dismissal, alleged misfeasance and slander.

According to the court documents, Osborne, Thompson and Dean are seeking damages and a declaration that Bannister, whose portfolio includes BPL, usurped and interfered with the statutory functions of the boards at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and BPL at their exclusion as board of directors.

They are also seeking a declaration that the minister’s decision to dismiss them without reasonable cause and without affording them “procedural fairness, is unlawful, ultra vires the Electricity Act 2015 and a breach of the rules of natural justice, procedural fairness and the duty to act reasonably”.

The plaintiffs are further seeking a declaration that Banister deliberately abused and exceeded his statutory power and authority by allegedly unlawfully usurping the functions of the board; intermeddling in the affairs of the board behind the backs of the plaintiffs; issuing specific directions to the board; wrongfully and retaliatory termination “thereby committing misfeasance of public office”.

In their writs, Osborne and Dean are also seeking a declaration that Bannister made retaliatory statements intended to “disparage, embarrass and damage” their personal and professional reputations “thereby committing misfeasance of public office”

Each of the plaintiffs is seeking damages for wrongful dismissal; damages, inclusive of aggravated and exemplary damages for alleged misfeasance; interest; cost and any other relief as the court deems fit.

Additionally, Osborne and Dean are seeking compensatory damages for slander in connection with statements made “falsely and maliciously” in the presence of the media.

They are also seeking an injunction preventing Bannister from “further speaking, publishing, circulating distribution or causing to be printed published, circulated or distributed the same or any similar words defamatory” of the plaintiffs.

Bannister announced the board was disbanded in August 2018, claiming the former BPL board members locked horns on almost every critical issue at great cost to the company, which ultimately necessitated new leadership. He did not provide specifics on what those conflicts were.

Osborne, Dean and Thompson refuted the claims, calling them “inaccurate and misleading”. The former board members also said “political interference” and “continuous disrespect” toward the executive chairpersons were at the root of the board’s dysfunction.

In response, Bannister admitted that there was political interference, but he claimed it was after he learned BPL paid for a makeup bill and home security system for Osborne. He also claimed that Osborne requested a salary of $300,000.

The former board also included Ferron Bethel, who is also on the new board, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie and Patrick Rollins, who was the deputy chairman.