DSTA leadership dispute settled | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–A settlement was reached in the dispute between two rival groups claiming leadership of the Dutch St. Maarten Taxi Association (DSTA) in a court hearing at the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association (PMIA) Hall in Philipsburg on Friday afternoon. According to the agreement, DSTA President Conrad Richardson and his board will remain in place, the suspensions of the opposing board will be lifted, and measures will be taken to “professionalise” the association.

  The dispute originated when a group of seven taxi drivers began to question the association’s financial situation late last year. They claimed no financial report had been submitted by the board since 2014, and they believed the association’s debt to Port St. Maarten was increasing. This group also claimed DSTA’s registration with the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) in 2018 had not been updated since 2016, making its current board “illegal.”

  According to representatives of the group, these perceived irregularities prompted them to gather a quorum and hold elections in November 2018 that saw members of the group selected as a new board.

  In May this year, the new board started the process to have them registered at COCI as the official board of DSTA.

  At this time, Richardson called an election for May 29.

  On that day, members of this new group arrived at DSTA’s office at Port St. Maarten and attempted to change the building’s locks. This created a disturbance and the police were called. However, the election proceeded, and Richardson was elected as DSTA President.

  The new group claimed that the May 29 election was invalid, as they had not received an invitation to participate in the election. They said this was in contradiction to DSTA’s Constitution.

  Two days after the election, Richardson and the other elected board members sent a request to COCI to be inscribed as DSTA’s official board.

  In a letter sent to the new group’s lawyer in July, COCI said the two requests following closely behind each other indicated “an internal dispute in the association,” adding that it was “not in a position to determine which board is the legally elected board.”

  “Until a decision is taken by the court and an instruction is received, all requests filed with us [to update DSTA’s registration – Ed.] are placed on hold,” said COCI in the letter.

  The dispute quieted down for a time. Richardson and the other board members continued functioning as DSTA’s board while the new group weighed its legal options.

  However, on September 27 all the members of the new group received suspension letters saying they were barred from accessing the port. The suspensions were for a period of one month, which could have been extended.

  These letters referenced the lock-changing incident on May 29 as reason for their suspensions.

  “You chose to forcefully gain access to the office of the Dutch St. Maarten Taxi Association with a cruise ship (Allure of the Seas) docked. We were informed by the Port Management that you were not given permission from them to carry out the act of removing the locks from the office door. You created an atmosphere of chaos that violates our concession agreement [with Port St. Maarten – Ed.], namely article 8.1(iii),” according to the suspension letters.

  In the meantime, a court injunction was filed by the new group to determine DSTA’s legally elected board.

  At this hearing, the lawyers of both claimants gave lengthy arguments. After listening to both sides, the judge requested that the parties discuss a mutual agreement to avoid a prolonged mediation. He then adjourned the hearing for 15 minutes.

  When the court resumed, the lawyers told the judge they had agreed to an out-of-court settlement. Richardson and the other members elected on May 29 will remain as DSTA’s board. The suspensions of the members of the new group will be lifted with immediate effect, allowing them access to the port. Within six weeks, a full finance report and its associated statements are to be submitted by Richardson’s board to DSTA membership.

  Moreover, DSTA’s Constitution and by-laws are to be updated within four months. An audit committee and a grievance committee are also to be established in the same time frame. This is to “professionalise” the association and limit potential abuses of power and financial mismanagement.

  The judge instructed the lawyers to have this agreement documented and notarised. The lawyers said they will submit the agreement to the court next week.

  How court costs will be distributed and paid by each party was not decided in the Friday hearing. However, the lawyers agreed to settle this outstanding issue soon.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/92005-dsta-leadership-dispute-settled