Former TTFA coach Stephen Hart demands unpaid salaries by May

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FORMER men’s national team coach Stephen Hart is demanding the $5 million owed to him for unpaid salaries and bonuses and has given the TT Football Association until May 9 to pay him.

Hart has also warned the TTFA’s general secretary, Ramesh Ramdhan, if he fails to pay or respond to his letter for payment, he will approach the high court for an order to levy on him or the company to recover the $5 million.

The ultimatum was given by Hart ‘s attorney Keith Scotland in a letter to Ramdhan on Monday.

Scotland reminded the TTFA’s general secretary of the default judgment in November 2019, in which Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell ordered the TTFA to pay to Hart US$742,444 for wrongful dismissal, unpaid salaries and bonus for various periods in 2015 and 2016.

Scotland demanded payment from the TTFA by May 9, telling Ramdhan failure to do so will result in Hart initiating further legal action to compel the local football body to do so.

“If you fail to respond to this letter by the date indicated, the undersigned will be making an application to the High Court for enforcement of the judgment against your company and/or the undersigned will be seeking to levy against you or your company to recover sums owed and due,” Scotland said.

Hart, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, filed the action in 2017, and received a judgment in default on November 19, 2019, after the TTFA failed to defend the lawsuit.

The amount the TTFA was ordered to pay was only what Hart said was owed to him, and did not include an award of damages, because he opted not to seek additional compensation. The former Soca Warriors coach was represented by attorneys Keith Scotland, Rhea Sookhai, and Sheriza Khan.

According to Hart’s case, his contract began on July 1, 2015, and a base compensation package of US$200,000 was agreed to until December 31, and US$25,000 from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2018. He also claimed a hexagonal bonus of US$10,000, baggage and food expenses for 2015 in the amount of US$444, travel expenses for 2015-2016 for family visits and scouting of US$7,000, his salary from December 2016-December 2018 at US$25,000 per month, and $5,000 for short payment for July-August.

Hart’s lawsuit said the TTFA failed to pay him his base salary for September-October 2015 and was in breach of contract. The TTFA also short-paid him $5,000 from July-August 2015. He received none of his bonuses or other benefits, including traveling.

The lawsuit also said in November 2016, the TTFA gave Hart a one-month termination notice followed by a letter by former TTFA president David John-Williams, who said there was “just cause for termination,” and fired the coach with immediate effect. The next month, John-Williams wrote to Hart again, claiming the coach had agreed to part ways and on that assumption, the TTFA had chosen not to issue a termination letter.

Hart insisted under no circumstances was he in agreement. That month, he wrote to then TTFA’s general secretary Justin Latapy-George asking about the cancellation of his cellphone account, where and when to return his car, cancellation of cable and internet at the apartment he was staying in, and the time and date to vacate the apartment and give up the keys.

On December 19, 2016, Latapy-George, four days after he first responded to Hart, said the TTFA was incurring additional expenses as a result of Hart’s late departure from the apartment.

In January 2017, Hart’s attorneys wrote to the TTFA asking for a date to leave the apartment. There was no response. Hart’s attorneys also sent a pre-action protocol letter. The TTFA asked for more time to respond to it. There has been no response.

“Since the wrongful termination of his employment the claimant has failed to attain employment elsewhere,” the lawsuit said.

John-Williams was ousted as president of the football body at the executive’s elections in November 2019, by William Wallace and his team.

Subsequently, Wallace and his executive were removed on March 17 by FIFA who in turn set up a normalisation committee due to mounting debts accumulated by the TTFA.

This has been appealed by Wallace to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Businessman Robert Hadad has been appointed by FIFA as chairman of the TTFA normalisation committee.

There is now a brewing legal battle between Wallace’s executive and the committee over the signatories to the TTFA’s bank accounts with the former declaring they were the sole signatories.

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