By way of an inadvertent response it was insinuated that the tax payers of the Territory might be paying the legal fees of the Speaker of the House of Assembly as the case goes forward.
During the recent sitting Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn asked who is paying for the court matters involving Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock and elected Fourth District Representative Hon. Mark Vanterpool.
In fact, the Leader of Opposition asked Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Fahie to tell the House of Assembly the cost of the court matter which has since bumped up to the Court of Appeal.
Further Hon. Penn asked the estimated cost of the Speaker’s legal fees, and the amount billed and paid thus far. He also queried the basis under which legal counsel was retained in the matter and how the legal fees are anticipated to be met?
In response Hon. Fahie told the House of Assembly that he was unable to answer the questions because Standing Orders prevent that. The Premier told the House: “Mr. Speaker the member’s question is valid, but the information the member is seeking to be furnished to this Honourable House will be furnished in detail upon completion of the matter before the courts. This is in keeping with section 17: 1 G VI; which states ‘A question shall not be asked about any matter then pending before any court of justice or which reflects on the decision of the court of justice’.”
“I crave the member’s indulgence but until the matter is completely disposed of I will definitely return to the House with the information,” the Premier further told the House.
However, the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the matter is up for appeal and there is an aspect of it that has already been completed, “part of the question asked whether the government is paying for it. I think that part could be answered,” he said.
In response Hon. Fahie confirmed that the matter was going forward, However, he repeated that the Standing Orders speak about discussing a matter before the courts: “There is an appeal which the Speaker has placed on the case and a stay on the case.”
The response did not satisfy the Leader of the Opposition who pointed out that the people of the Territory deserve to know: “So the people have to wait a couple of months to see how their money would be spent…This case will not be billed for a few months while the clock continues to run on the bill for the taxpayers,” Hon. Penn said.
The Premier retorted by acknowledging that the people deserve to know, but he said that the Standing Orders have to be adhered to: “Mr. Speaker with due respect to the Leader of the Opposition… ou cannot have the rules of the House break down because a few people want it or maybe more than a few. There are standing orders of the House. As soon as the matter is disposed of in court even if its 10 cents, two dollars, a hundred thousand dollars we will come to this House and tell the taxpayers how their money is spent,” the Premier said.
Additionally, the Premier said that until that time he must be guided by Standing Orders 17. “I am not doing this to block anything Mr. Speaker whatever the problem is involving monies I will tell them. When the time allows that and the matter is fully disposed of.”
However, Hon. Penn before moving on to his next question pointed out that the Premier unintentionally answered the question. The Leader of the Opposition said: “I thank you for confirming that the taxpayers are paying the debt.”