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Yesterday in the Supreme Court of Justice Sonya Young, the Orange Walk Town Council was ordered to pay Denny Gijalava, owner of Demar’s Stone Company here in Orange Walk, almost $100,000 inclusive of interest and court fees for streets fixed in Orange Walk. The agreement with Girjalva was made by the previous UDP Town Council headed by former Mayor Philip De La Fuente. The then town council paid Grijalva $90,000 and agreed to pay the remaining balance of the contract which stood at $138,000 in installments. 


But when the PUP Town Council was elected in 2012, they refused to pay Grijalva the remaining balance under the claim that proper procedure was not followed by De La Fuente. So, Grijalva took the matter to court and won. Yesterday when we interviewed De La Fuente he stated that the ruling was justifiable since Mayor Bernard, who at that time was a counselor, and all other councilors were in agreement of Grijalva being hired to pave the streets. The yes was allegedly given during a council meeting held on August 16th 2011. But, not so fast says Mayor Bernard. While he agrees that a council meeting was held, he totally refutes that the council agreed to hire Girjalva.

Screen_Shot_2014-09-17_at_8.06.06_PMKevin Bernard- Mayor of Orange Walk Town

“In that meeting, what the Mayor at the time told us was that they have gotten funds from the Ministry of Works to have done a project and De’mars stone Company was the person who had gotten that contract through the ministry of works and this was never a contract with the Town Council where they have gotten the funds from the through the ministry to carry out these works but the drain works had been changed to street improvements which included the New Hope street and Benque Viejo Street, what he went on to say in that meeting was that the funds that the ministry of works had however will not be sufficient enough to complete the paving of the Benque Viejo Street thereafter discussion ensued; one of the councilors and I have a copy of the minutes right here which will clearly show you that one of the councilor Joel Madera in that discussion said that he believe that the Council should engage in working in smaller streets instead. Councilor Arana mentioned and brought a very serious issue which was at the same time facing the Council, the Belize Bank overdraft problem. Because only options were been thrown at that time we did not agree to anything, we asked for the Mayor to go back to Mr Gijalba and see if an agreement was to be reached and we were to be informed about that in fact in that meeting it was even stated that if an agreement was to be reached with Mr Grijalbe all monies should have been paid out by February 2012 but as I said we did not reach to any agreement of that day.”

If we understand it right, the minutes do not hold the exact contents of the meeting held on August 16th 2011. And while we did not delve deeply into yesterday’s hearing, what we can tell you today is that Justice Sonya Young in her statement indicated that De La Fuente acted out of his jurisdiction.

Kevin Bernard- Mayor of Orange Walk Town

“This minute dated August 16th 2011 is a month further than the date of the contract that the former Mayor signed. That contract that we disputed in the court was dated July 2011 and signed by the then Mayor. And if I go to the judgment passed by Justice Young, it says here and this is talking about the jurisdiction of the Mayor to contract as an agent of the council, the council may certainly contract through the Mayor and section 36 of the standing orders clearly indicates this but for the mayor to do so he must be duly authorized and such authority must come from the council and nowhere else. Therefore, it says, the court could find no precedence for the assertion that the office of the mayor carried with it the implied actually actuality to bind the cooperation and therefore could not agree with the council meaning the attorney for the claimant in this regard. The Judge further stated in her decision “That I am of the view that the mayor a creature of statute with well-defined powers an duties must have expressed actual authority to contract as agent for the council, that of course is a question of fact, based on the evidence presented by the defendant especially the absence of the cooperate seal on the contract and the minutes, the contents of which have not been refuted or was never refuted in any way by the claimant, this court finds that the Mayor was not so authorized to contract, this is telling you right there that our case that we took to the court on these technical issues was indeed found to be true, that the Mayor acted out of his jurisdiction and signed a contract prior even gotten into a contract without the knowledge of the council and I can continue that they judge also added that in the minutes the Mayor is recorded as having simply informed the council that a contract to execute the project has been granted by the council to the company, in this minutes does not say that the contract was done by the council but the contract was done and it was referred to the ministry of works funding but it went on to say that it is clear from the language used and the discussion  which ensued that the council was not aware of any contract and clearly then had not authorized the Mayor or anyone else to enter into any such contract on their behalf , the court also considered the minutes of June 14th 2011 which shows no discussion whatsoever of a contract proposal to contract in relation to the Orange Walk streets. Further down her judgment the judge states, I therefore find that when the Mayor entered into contract with the company on 21st July 2011 he was not then acting as the council agent but rather of his own accord the council can therefore not be held responsible for any action which he took without their knowledge and authorization.”

So why did Justice Young rule in favor of Grijalva? It all lies in the minutes.

Kevin Bernard- Mayor of Orange Walk Town

“The issue lies in the minutes, this minutes like I’ve said was never corrected, was never rebutted because there was never a subsequent Town Council meeting held here under the previous administration, as you know we were already going into elections, the Mayor had refuse to had any other Town council meetings so this minute anybody could put anything on paper, was never corrected by us as a Council and I can tell you that if you would question any of the other council out there, any other councilor that would put principle over politics they would tell you that we would not ever see a contract that the council had gotten with any De’mars and there was never an agreement for us to have gotten into any contract.”

Carmelita Perez – Reporter

“At that time wasn’t it customary for the minutes of a meeting to be circulated among councilors and among the administrator and the Mayor?”

Kevin Bernard- Mayor of Orange Walk Town

“This is why I am saying, this minute is what was prepared after the fact because this is the discussion that ensued but there was no other meeting where the minutes of this same minutes here that I am seeing was circulated to us because I saw the minutes until afterwards when we started to dig up for when this case came up that there was a minute prepared. I have with me here and I could show the actual content of this minutes and as you know they say black and white don’t lie and documents filed and saved in a computer always has a trail and it tell you clearly it is the minutes of August 2011 and the properties of that meeting; it says content was created 2nd of November 2011it is obvious that a minute for August 2011was prepared in November 2011.”

The council is also questioning why is it that they have to pay Grijalva $88,000 for the upgrading of the streets when the agreement made with De La Fuente was for only $138,000. If the previous council paid Grijalva $90,000, then the remaining balance should be $48,000, says Mayor Bernard.

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