(CNS): Gordon John Hewitt told a court that he was repeatedly reassured, through attorney Steve McField, that the UDP would cover all the costs of a petition to challenge the election of Tara Rivers in 2013. But he said the party “led me down the garden path” and then “threw me under the bus”. As lawyers and trustees picked over his assets Tuesday, following his declaration of bankruptcy earlier this year, the 78-year-old man said he “felt stupid” for believing the opposition leader and the promises made that he “would not have to pay a dime”.
Hewitt said that everything was “veiled in secrecy” and nothing was in writing because the party leader, McKeeva Bush, had made it clear he did not want it to get out that the UDP would be financing the challenge. But they never did.
Hewitt was forced to declare bankruptcy over the election case, which was lost, when he received a bill of over US$200,000. Despite being promised from the start that he would not be liable for the financial element, Hewitt revealed that he did not receive anything from the UDP. He had been persuaded to front the election petition, he explained, because the party, and Renard Moxam in particular, would foot the bill for the challenge and a subsequent appeal.
The West Bay resident, whose wife ran on the UDP ticket in the 2013 election, claims he was first asked by McKeeva Bush, leader of the UDP (a.k.a. CDP) and currently the leader of the opposition, if he would front the challenge in name only. Hewitt said he had agreed but on condition that he would not be paying the bill.
“I said I would do it if it doesn’t cost me a dime,” he said. He told the court that he could not afford to pay and he had made that abundantly clear. “I was not willing to pay anything, but if all the costs were covered I believed in the action and I agreed I would put my name to it. I was reassured that would be the case.”
Following the failure of the case and then an appeal, when Rivers was awarded her costs, he said that Bush, Moxam and other members of the hierarchy of the UDP, including some of its wealthy backers, were nowhere to be seen. He explained how he wrote to Bush asking for his help in getting the money but he never received a response in writing.
Hewitt said that McKeeva Bush responded to him via a BBM message but it was very negative. He said the UDP leader told him that he had no money either and was almost bankrupt himself.
Hewitt said that the UDP completely reneged on the deal, leaving him with the bill, but there was only a verbal agreement and nothing in writing. However, Hewitt’s account of the events is supported by sworn affidavits from his wife and attorney Steve McField, who has supported Hewitt’s claims. McField also stated that he and Abe Dabdoub, the Jamaican attorney that presented the election petition challenging Rivers, were not paid either.
The court heard that Renard Moxam had paid the retainer to McField in the first instance to enable him to instruct Dabdoub and obtain the necessary permits, but that was the only cash that ever came from members of the UDP to cover the challenge.
Hewitt, who has lost everything, including the small art and framing business he had for twenty years, has no assets.
As attorneys for Rivers and the bankruptcy trustee questioned him, it became apparent that Rivers will not be collecting her $200,000 in costs from him. Attorney Graham Hampson, although he was representing Rivers and questioning Hewitt about the events and his remaining meagre assets, nevertheless baulked at suggestions from the court to list an inventory of Hewitt’s possessions, which he described as “Dickensian”.
Hewitt can only now be discharged from bankruptcy if the debt to Rivers is paid. Falling short of stating the obvious — that this could happen if the UDP and its leaders come through as promised — Justice Ingrid Mangatal, who was clearly troubled by the case, said she felt it was “desirable for the matter to be resolved in some other way”, as the severity of Hewitt’s near destitution was laid bare.
The trustee who examines the case will be the one to recommend whether there are debts owed to Hewitt and if the verbal agreement, as claimed by him, his wife and McField, with the UDP and its party leaders and members makes them also liable for the court costs awarded to Rivers.
The hearing was adjourned until February to give Hewitt time to locate and file documents to confirm his lack of assets.