E-mails prove Premier knew of senator’s rent debt before Upper House appointment
The Premier was made aware of concerns over a senator’s rent arrears by a senior Civil Servant before he appointed him to the Upper House and made him a junior minister, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
E-mails between the Harvey family and Marc Telemaque, the Cabinet Secretary, showed that David Burt was informed about the situation before he sent Curtis Richardson to the Senate in October 2020 and gave him a junior ministerial role at the health ministry while the island was in the grip of the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Richardson has admitted in the Supreme Court that he owed Margaret Harvey, who is in her 70s, $19,000 in rent arrears in the latest twist in a legal dispute that has dragged on for almost two years.
Mr Burt also made Mr Richardson, a taxi driver, the junior national security minister – a brief that covers law and order – and also Senate spokesman on transport.
It was revealed in court that Mr Richardson has only paid $1,400 of the cash owed and that Financial Assistance had made monthly payments of $1,163 for him in September, October, and November 2020.
Mr Richardson was given a notice to quit the property owned by Ms Harvey on March 31, 2020, but did not vacate the premises until the next year.
Ms Harvey told the Supreme Court that the court battle has taken such a toll on her health that she had become ill and her hair had started to fall out.
Her daughter, Margot Harvey, said the family contacted the Premier’s office on two occasions, in May and September, 2020.
Dr Harvey also questioned why an arrest warrant issued when Mr Richardson failed to appear in Magistrate’s Court as scheduled on December 3 last year was not acted upon.
She said: “The Premier was contacted.
“Mr Richardson was given notice to leave our apartment March 31, 2020.
“And he didn’t, – we had lockdown in April, so, obviously he didn’t move, and, so, we contacted the Premier on May 25, via his aide, Marc Telemaque, and he said ‘this is a private matter, not something the Premier can intervene in’.”
Dr Harvey added: “And then we contacted the Premier again via Marc Telemaque on September 1, 2020, to tell them, ’look, now it’s September and we have to take him to court because he is not moving out of our property, he refuses’.
“And, so Mr Telemaque wrote back and he said ‘I’m sorry this is not resolved, I have made the Premier aware, and I expect he will address the matter directly with Mr Richardson in his capacity as party leader’.”
Dr Harvey said: “And then the election happened, he did not win his seat, but then on October 8, 2020, he was appointed to the Senate and is this a man who you want representing you?
“We had orders for him (Mr Richardson), because of conflict of interest with certain magistrates, we had to go to court and then we would get a different magistrate – a request to get a different magistrate – because there were conflicts with certain magistrates, which we did.
“So, once we went to court and we finally got a warrant for eviction – because he was refusing to move – to get the bailiff to actually go to the house, break the lock, take all his stuff out, because he was refusing to move – so, we had this warrant for eviction in place.
“The warrant for eviction was issued, and then it was a matter of ‘OK, now this is going to happen’.”
Dr Harvey added: “We had a warrant for eviction mid-January, 2021 and the Friday before – say, the warrant was supposed to be executed the Wednesday, or Thursday – the Friday before, Mr Richardson wrote to the court as senator Curtis Richardson and requested an urgent hearing with the magistrate to dispute his eviction, his warrant for eviction.
“He got a hearing and we were informed on the Monday we have to come to court and we are like ‘why? It’s done, he’s leaving”. We were called to court and Mr Richardson won a warrant to get a stay on his eviction.
“And he finally moved out of our property February 1, 2021.”
Dr Harvey said: “Every single time we go to court, everybody who goes into court – plumber, mechanic, whoever they are – before they are leaving the court, the magistrate says ‘how much can you pay? Please go outside to the cashier’s office and pay it, otherwise you will be arrested’.
“He (Mr Richardson) had a warrant for his arrest issued before this warrant was issued on December 3, he had a previous warrant for arrest – why hasn’t he been arrested?”
The Opposition said last week that resignation may be the “best option” for Mr Richardson.
The Supreme Court heard last week that an arrest warrant for Mr Richardson, who earns more than $30,000 a year as a senator, was reissued on December 3 last year after he failed to appear for a Magistrates’ Court hearing.
Mr Richardson told the Supreme Court he had not turned up because he was told the appearance had been cancelled because of his appeal to the higher court.
Mr Richardson, who was replaced as junior health minister last July, will have his ability to pay assessed in Magistrates’ Court to determine how much he will be able to put towards his debt to Ms Harvey.
The Government has failed to respond to several requests for comment.
•It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.
The questions the Government was asked were:
“In response to the first e-mail, Mr Telemaque, Cabinet Secretary, stated that it was a private matter.
“In a second reply, Mr Telemaque stated: ‘I’m sorry this is not resolved. I have made the Premier aware, and I expect he will address the matter directly with Mr Richardson in his capacity as party leader’.
“Do you accept these e-mails are accurate?
“What, exactly, did the Cabinet Secretary tell the Premier about the Richardson situation? And when did he tell the Premier about it?
“Did the Premier ‘address the matter directly’ with Mr Richardson?
“If so, when? And what did he say to him?
“If he did not address the matter with Mr Richardson, why not?
“Why did Mr Burt appoint Mr Richardson to the Senate, and three junior ministries, including health (during a pandemic) despite being made aware of this information by the Cabinet Secretary?
“Does Mr Burt regret this appointment?
“Given this information, and the information revealed in the Supreme Court … does Mr Burt have full confidence in Mr Richardson as a senator and a junior minister?
“If he does retain confidence in him, why does he?
“Given the evidence in court, where Mr Richardson accepts he owes $19,000 in rent arrears to a frail old lady, should he not resign/be removed from his Senate seat and junior ministries?
Given that Margaret Harvey says she is now sick and losing her hair because of the toll placed upon her by this lengthy legal action against Mr Richardson for the recovery of his debt to her, does the Premier feel any shame at appointing Mr Richardson to such high offices of state?“