Suit seeks $11m from ex-board members
'Misuse of UTT funds'
THE University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) is seeking close to $11 million from its former board of directors for breach of fiduciary duty with regard to a lease of the Aripo Guest House.
Those directors are Kenneth Julien, Dr Rene Monteil, Giselle Marfleet, Scott Hilton-Clarke, Ravindranath Maharaj, Lincoln Warner and Errol Pilgrim.
In legal action filed in the High Court last Friday, the UTT claims the directors failed to exercise skill, care and diligence in the management of the university's affairs with regard of the guest house even after they were made aware of a report which advised that they discontinue the lease.
It is also seeking damages of $126,393 from Prof Julien, "arising out of his breach of his duty to act honestly and in good faith" by allowing Juliana Pena and a companion to reside at the Aripo Guest House as his personal guests and giving instructions that she be charged staff rates.
Pena has previously been described as former prime minister Patrick Manning's spiritual adviser.
The statement of case, which lists Gerald Ramdeen as UTT's advocate attorney and Varun Debideen as instructing attorney, explained that on December 5, 2005, the executive committee of the UTT agreed in principle to lease the Aripo Guest House for a period of five years.
The monthly rental would be $50,000 and the total cost of the lease would amount to $8,420,000 (it comprises annual operating costs of 1,020,000 a year and a capital expenditure of $1,020,000).
The board was subsequently advised by its then corporate legal adviser Celeste Mohammed that UTT was in fact a sub-lessor of the property and that the lease should be terminated.
The statement of case contends that despite being made aware of this report, the board did not act on the advice.
UTT is also seeking money it claims it is owed from Julien for his decision to accommodate Pena and her companion from December 2007 to October 2008.
UTT stated that there was no board resolution approving UTT rates for Pena and her companion nor was their evidence that they provided services for UTT.
UTT argued that Pena and her companion should have been invoiced at visitor rates and is seeking the sums owed to it.
The statement of case states that UTT has suffered a loss of $126,393.
In addition to its $11 million claim, UTT is seeking interest at a rate to be determined by the Court from February 2006 until the date of judgment.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who has been actively pursuing audits into several State enterprises, told the Sunday Express by phone yesterday: "UTT was a virtual cash cow and there was a lot of wasted expenditure of the public money. It is important that these matters such as neglect and maladministration be pursued in the public interest and I intend to vigorously pursue the UTT, Petrotrin, e-TecK and soon to come, T&TEC."