The New Today

Letters

My experience with Dickon Mitchell

On 19th October 2019, THE NEW TODAY posted an article entitled, “Victory for Dickon Mitchell.” The article concerned a Court of Appeal decision in a case in which I was the unsuccessful claimant and one, Dickon Mitchell, a local lawyer, was the victor.

The article attempted to spell out the details of the case, however it contained several glaringly inaccurate statements. I did not respond at the time as I try not to bring my private affairs and grievances into the public arena.

Now, according to various recent press reports, Dickon Mitchell is about to enter the political arena as he is contending for leadership of the opposition political party, NDC. General elections are looming.

In light of this, I feel compelled to shed a little more light on the background of this case as this might help the general public understand the nature of Dickon Mitchell a little better. Regarding my case against Mitchell, it was in essence a claim in trust. I sought to make Mitchell account for his management of the business of Grant Joseph & Co. during the period between the death of my then partner, Linda Grant, in April 2005 and the sale to him in January 2006.

Grant Joseph & Co. was established in 1984 and operated as Grant and Grant before I became a partner. It had a solid client base including several major hotels, business, banks, WRB, Grenlec and statutory bodies. It was one of the leading law firms in Grenada.

Mitchell bought the firm in January 2006. At the time of the sale to Mitchell the goodwill value alone was estimated to be in the millions. Mitchell was only able to buy my interest and that of my deceased partner’s in the firm because of the indulgences granted to him by me and Linda Grant’s executors.

The contracts referred to in the judgment speak for themselves. He was allowed to finance the deal over time by installments from the proceeds of the business. When I was sent the financial statements several months after the sale I noted discrepancies and raised queries of Mitchell. He bluntly refused to respond.

These statements were never audited as was claimed in the first article in THE NEW TODAY. My salient allegations were that after Linda Grant’s death I gave Mitchell and two other employees of the company a mandate to operate the firm’s accounts to enable the business to continue. Additionally, that I appointed Mitchell manager in August 2005 until he bought in January 2006.

At trial, Mitchell testified on oath. He denied that he was my employee, denied that I was a partner of the very firm that carried my name, and denied that I had appointed him manager and stated that he never took any managerial decisions. He denied that he had any knowledge of the firm’s financial affairs except what he gleaned from clients’ billings.

The High Court trial judge found in my favour on all of these issues. These facts remained uncontroverted by the Court of Appeal. In short, Justice Mohammed did not find him to be a credible witness.  Specifically she found his evidence ‘self-serving’ in one instance, and notably, on cross-examination, Mitchell admitted that he used the Firm’s monies for his unauthorised travel to the BVI. So much for his claims of not making any managerial decisions. The judgment “Rita Joseph -Olivetti v Mitchell” can be found on the website of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

On appeal, despite the fact that the trial judge found that Mitchell was clearly managing the firm and making self-serving decisions which entailed unauthorised use of the firm’s monies for himself, the Court of Appeal found in his favour.

The Court of Appeal held that the contract of sale of the firm effectively extinguished my right, as one of the owners of the business at the time, to hold my employee to account for the management of my business. A warning then, to all business owners to keep a close eye on your employees, or suffer the consequences.

If Mitchell cannot manage a private firm in a transparent manner, can he manage the Country? If Mitchell was held to be an untruthful witness can one entrust the Nation’s affairs to him?

Rita Joseph-Olivetti