Court orders Maduro not to act on behalf of GEBE

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By The Daily Herald

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten –Pending the outcome of the court case concerning the validity of his reappointment as GEBE’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Managing Director, the Court of First Instance has ordered Romelio Maduro not to perform any acts of administration on behalf of the utility company.

Maduro was banned from accessing the GEBE offices and the Judge empowered GEBE to scrap Maduro’s name as company Director from the Chamber of Commerce’s registers.

GEBE’s Supervisory Board and Maduro squared off in the Court of First Instance in an injunction concerning his suspension. The case is also aimed at the decision of Country St. Maarten as GEBE’s shareholder to extend Maduro’s contract by two years.

GEBE wants to get Maduro’s reappointment off the table and wants government to retract its decision. To this end, GEBE has also filed a regular court procedure.

On May 29, shareholder representative of GEBE Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, in his capacity of caretaker minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI, rejected a request of the GEBE board not to extend Maduro’s contract, which expired on May 31.

Initially, GEBE had no objections to Maduro’s reappointment, but following reports that Maduro allegedly had abused his position and had harmed the company, it called on the shareholder representative to retract the two-year reappointment.

GEBE suspended Maduro on June 11 and placed him on non-active duty for a two-month period, as of that day.

Among allegations against Maduro are “unusual transactions” and financial irregularities, “neglect” and the inappropriate use of company credit cards. GEBE specifically mentioned irregularities with a cheque payment of US $68,600, which he had annulled and a new payment of US $20,600 to company SXM Service Provider.

According to GEBE’s statutes, individual directors were only entitled to make payments and close deals to the maximum amount of NAf. 50,000. In changing the amount, Maduro had attempted to conceal the payments from the Supervisory Board.

Maduro had called upon the Court to consider his reappointment as per June 1 to be valid and order GEBE to continue payment of his monthly salaries and emoluments, but this request was denied.

Conform GEBE’s statutes, a managing director is appointed by the shareholder representative following a binding recommendation of at least two candidates by the Board of Supervisory Directors. In case no recommendation has been made after four months the shareholder representative is entitled to appoint its own candidate.

After hearing three members of government’s legal department, the Court arrived at the conclusion that Prime Minister Gumbs, as Minister of VROMI, was entitled to make decisions as GEBE’s shareholder representative.

In the governing accord it is stated that the Council of Ministers “will be responsible for all matters related to decision-making regarding appointments, representations and functionaries of all government-owned companies, foundations and government entities,” but legislation has thus far not been adapted to this effect, it was said.

The Judge established that, despite the fact that the Supervisory Board had recommended Maduro’s reappointment and payment of a performance bonus by letter of February 25, this was followed by a second letter sent May 15, in which the shareholder representative was “urgently” informed that after the Supervisory Board’s advice and the shareholder representative’s decision to extend the agreement it was discovered that Maduro had been committing serious misconduct in executing his duties of COO and President of the company.

“The misconduct committed by Mr. Maduro is of such serious nature that, had we been aware of this before, we would certainly not have considered the Shareholder to extend the present agreement,” the Supervisory Board had stated, as quoted in the verdict.

The Court arrived at the conclusion that the shareholder representative should have been aware of the content of this letter in which he was informed that there no longer was a recommendation or “advisory vote” for Maduro’s reappointment.

As there is no possibility to appoint directors without a valid recommendation by the Supervisory Board, the decision to appoint Maduro was found to be in violation of GEBE’s statutes and null and void according to the civil code, the Court ruled in a preliminary judgement. It is not yet known when the main case will be handled by the Court.