Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2021. 6:18 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Minister of Sports and Youth, Kevin Bernard, has dismissed talk of former Director of the National Sports Council, Ian Jones, threatening to sue the government.
Bernard told reporters that in his meeting with Jones he was clear that the Council would be going in a new direction and that he would be expected to resign.
But Jones has retained attorney (and former vice-president of the Council) Orson J. Elrington, who has written suggesting that Jones was on contract through to 2022 and it can only be terminated beforehand by mutual agreement. He now demands up to $186,115 in salary and gratuity covering the final two years of the contract and damages for breach of his constitutional rights.
Jones, says Bernard, “should know very well what he did at the NSC…there was no such discussion or no such statement made to Ian Jones about political reasons” for his firing; Jones’s attorney says he has a recording of the current chairman telling Jones that he’s being fired for political reasons. Jones adds that the bottom line is his contract which they breached.
Bernard, meanwhile, claims that Jones was connected to the former Minister of Sports, now leader of the Opposition Patrick Faber, and used the NSC as “a political office” and oversaw the payments of “ghost workers” who worked at others’ homes and not for the Council. What he has seen is enough, he said, for another audit following the one issued in 2015 by the Auditor General – which was tabled in the House but not debated by the Public Accounts Committee.
And concerning the recent arrest of Ivan Ayuso, a clerk cited for allegedly stealing millions from the Council and who was reported by Jones, Bernard says he will speak publicly about what their investigation has found. As for Ayuso, Bernard says he is not interested in him other than if he is found guilty, he must repay to the Council and the money can be used to repair facilities like the Victor Galvez Stadium in Santa Elena, Cayo, and People’s Stadium in Bernard’s native Orange Walk. Faber and his deputies Herman Longsworth and Elodio Aragon Jr. (whom Bernard beat to win the Orange Walk East constituency in the general elections) are to blame as well, Bernard said.
“And [Jones] will come to me and tell me he wants to sue this Government? Tell him try something else, man,” Bernard concluded, adding that it shows great “gall and audacity” on Jones’ part to ask to be paid for his alleged neglect.
Jones points out that with the shutdown of all sporting activity in Belize, all the multipurpose facilities were handed over to the Ministry of Health and NEMO to be utilized as quarantine facilities. Any damages or wear and tear that happened, claims Jones, happened during that time.
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