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Last Friday was not a Black Friday, but after the decision in the case of Candice Miller vs the Belize City Council was handed down, it sure seemed like it was Black and Blue Friday for the Mayor and his councilors. The court ordered City Hall to pay $378,000 plus $70,000 in cost, for the wrongful termination of its former City Administrator, Candice Miller. The award to Miller plus her legal fees, should take the already cash strapped council’s bill up to almost half a million dollars. After adding in the council’s attorney’s fees the bill will certainly be hovering around $550,000. Their attorney will certainly be pressing to collect after the abuse he took from the bird-brained mayor, who shouted at him in court.
Miller, on the other hand, was calm throughout the entire case. She knew that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Her ordeal started shortly after the People’s United Party arrived at City Hall in March 2018 when the newly elected Belize City Council suspended her for one month, with pay. She was subsequently terminated by a vote of the entire council. At the time, Mayor Wagner’s council said it terminated Miller for failure to execute her fiduciary duty to the council. Just prior to the previous council leaving office, Miller had signed a new four-year contract. After being terminated and considering the loss of potential earnings she would be losing, Miller initiated a wrongful termination lawsuit against the council for $498,135.
A counterclaim was brought by the City Council, but it did not stand up in court. In his ruling, Justice Courtenay Abel found that Mayor Bernard Wagner had effectively prevented Miller from carrying out her duties at City Hall, so he determined that her termination was wrongful. After the decision was handed Miller said, “I feel vindicated, and I am happy that a judge could come and tell the mayor, you just can’t do that; you don’t treat people like that. It’s a victory for myself, it is a victory for the Belize Association of Municipal Administrators that lobbied for these contracts. I am vindicated.”
Mayor Wagner on the other hand told the media that he would be meeting with their attorney over the weekend to discuss how they will proceed. That weekend has passed and another weekend is approaching, but we still have not heard anything out of City Hall about what came out of those weekend meeting. Perhaps, the mayor is having his own meetings in his head. He may be advising himself to kick the can further down the road. All this problem could have been avoided had the bullhead mayor taken the advice he was given and settled with Miller. She was willing to settle and put closure to this issue a long time ago as Wagner was invited to sit down at the table and negotiate. Out of arrogance, he refused to do so. He played big and now he must pay big. Candice Miller was represented in court by Magali Marin Perdomo, while the Mayor and the City Council was represented by Anthony Sylvester.