Councillor, JP owes $1.5M rent

PNP Greenwich Town rep could face sanctions over complaint filed by landlord

BY SUNDAY OBSERVER
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Sunday, February 03, 2019

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A veteran councillor of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) is facing the potential embarrassment of bringing the corporation, as well as the office of justices of the peace into disrepute because he owes his landlord $1.5 million in rent.

Councillor for the Greenwich Town Division in the KSAMC Karl Blake owes 30 months' rent for a property on which he lives. The matter seems headed for court, as the aggrieved party seeks to recover the funds.

Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller; when contacted by the Jamaica Observer; said that Blake was still operating in his capacity as a justice of the peace, and he intended to speak with him on the matter.

“I got a letter from an attorney regarding the matter. I think it came in over the Christmas period. I have it as one matter on my desk to deal with, but I'm yet to speak with Mr Blake on it.

“I think it is a civil matter between two people in contract, and I don't know the circumstances why Mr Blake has not paid his rent, but I really need to speak with him,” Fuller told the Sunday Observer.

Fuller said that to his knowledge Blake had not submitted a letter of resignation as a JP.

“Not that I know of, and that would have come to me, and I haven't received one,” Fuller responded to a Sunday Observer question.

The matter is likely to be seen as a blow to the Opposition People's National Party, which Blake represents, as the party seeks to uphold ethics within its senior and middle ranks and avoid such civil squabbles that could bring the organisation into disrepute.

Contacted Friday, Blake initially said that he wanted to consult his attorney, whom the Sunday Observer understands to be Andre Earle, before giving the newspaper an official response. He later gave his version of the story:

“I know I owe the rent, but I did surgery some time ago and I was in a recovery period. The money that I would use to pay it, I had to do some surgery. I am working hard to pay them off, but it's just unfortunate to see how some people act. But I've made some preparations that by Monday I can pay them off and get this done. Today I was supposed to do it but there was some setback. I leave everything in God's hands,” Blake stated.

Blake said he spoke to the mayor of Kingston, Delroy Williams, who he said advised him to “hurry up and do what I have to do to pay them off. He has advised me to get it out, so that is what I am doing. I went to my insurance to pay them off. I don't have all of it but it's close, and I'm hoping to have even a little left back”, he went on.

Blake, a long-standing supporter of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, backed former Mayor Angela Brown Burke in her successful bid to replace Simpson Miller as Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Western — a seat she won in a by-election in October 2017.

Blake was wounded in a shooting incident at the PNP's constituency office in June 2017, the circumstances of which were unclear at the time and remain unsolved. His assistant, Maxine Simpson, died in that same incident as a result of gunshot wounds she received from a man who was said to be from the area.

The Sunday Observer understands the Opposition caucus in the KSAMC is fully aware of the situation, and efforts by some councillors had been made to ease the burden of their Comrade. However, minority leader Andrew Swaby, who served before as deputy mayor, said he was not familiar with the matter but would try to get some information and get back to the Sunday Observer.

Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck told the Sunday Observer that he had not heard of the matter which has the potential to cloud the office of a justice of the peace, but suggested that custodes had the responsibility of safeguarding the integrity of the office, and if they felt that a JP was acting contrary to the dictates of that office, a hearing would be scheduled and the JP would get the opportunity to state his case.

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes is the island's most senior justice of the peace.


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