Former Speaker of the House of Assembly (HOA) Julian Willock has insisted that hundreds of thousands of dollars were justifiably spent when they were doled out from the public purse to fund aborted matters he brought before the courts during his tenure as Speaker.
Willock argued on the Talking Points radio show yesterday, November 14, that despite the delicate state of the treasury at the time, his actions were not only warranted but well within reason and in the interest of the public.
Willock insisted he was never being selfish, but only patriotic in pursuing the matters before the court and claimed that his aborted matters set legal precedence which can now be followed by others.
“What I was fighting for, [and] I continue to fight for, is a legal system that benefits everybody. You can’t have a legal system for ‘us’ and one for ‘them’.” Willock said without explaining who he was referring to.
“So while there is a cost associated with it (the court actions), you have to think of the long-term benefits of what was derived from going those ways,” he argued.
When asked about one of his lawsuits — a court injunction for which did not receive the necessary support from the Attorney General, Willock pushed back and said the court found that he had grounds to pursue the matter, so he went ahead.
“It was in the interest of the public, it wasn’t in the interest of me. I didn’t do it in my private capacity,” Willock claimed.
COI costs not being debated
In the meantime, Willock attempted to equate the costly court matters he pursued with the government’s expenses for the implementation of Commission of Inquiry
) recommended governance reforms.
“No one is talking about those (COI
) costs. We spent over $40,000 to defend John Rankin
. No one is talking about that cost. So far, according to my information from the Ministry of Finance, we’re close to a million dollars in paying to implement the Commission of Inquiry
. No one is talking about those costs. I’m just saying, let’s be consistent,” Willock insisted.
Willock, who appears to be considering a run at the next elections as a possible Territorial At-Large candidate, said the people of the territory will ultimately vindicate him for costs associated with taking three COI
lawyers before the courts.
Willock first brought legal action against Fourth District Representative Mark Vanterpool after Vanterpool won re-election at the 2019 polls. Vanterpool almost immediately, mistakenly sent a resignation letter to the clerk of the HOA, but just as hastily, withdrew that resignation.
Willock, once appointed as Speaker, belatedly accepted the resignation and decided against swearing in Vanterpool for his seat in the HOA. Arguing that it was his duty to test the law to confirm that Vanterpool had in fact legally resigned, Willock pursued a protracted lawsuit and lost, then sought to take the matter to the Appeal Court before abruptly aborting the action. It was a pattern the Speaker would repeat in the coming years.
That first action reportedly cost the government several hundred thousand dollars in court costs and legal fees and it remains uncertain whether all fees have since been paid.
The same script was rehashed when the Speaker took a matter to the High Court, arguing that COI
lawyers were practising illegally in the territory.
The Speaker filed a suit against the COI
lawyers — without the required permission from the HOA or the Attorney General — but lost at the High Court before pursuing an appeal, which was then abruptly aborted as was previously done.
Court costs and legal fees amounted to just under one hundred thousand dollars in this instance. It was a bill for which Willock was held personally responsible by the court and asked to pay. However, the now dismantled Andrew Fahie
-led government insisted on paying instead. Protest action later caused the government to concede. The legal costs associated with the failed injunction was ultimately left for Willock to pay.