Mitchell: I collect no rent from Pan Trinbago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Pan Trinbago’s office on Melville Lane and Dundonald Street, Port of Spain.
FILE PHOTO/AYANNA KINSALE

TOURISM, Culture, and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell says he will not be used by Opposition Senator Wade Mark to distract public attention away from the UNC’s internal troubles.

At a news conference at the UNC’s headquarters in Chaguanas on Sunday, Mark asked whether Mitchell had an interest in a company that owns a building in Port of Spain where Pan Trinbago is renting office space.

In response, Mitchell said he heard Mark’s claims “wherein he sought to distract from the ongoing implosion in the UNC by attempting to seek clarification on matters I had already previously publicly clarified.” He reiterated that he is a 50 per cent shareholder in Dere Street Ltd, which owns a property located at 55 Dundonald Street, Port of Spain.

“This property was acquired in 2021. My contribution to the purchase price was funded by the sale of another property I previously owned since 2012, before I held public office. The purchase and ownership of this property have been conducted transparently and in accordance with all legal and ethical standards.”

The upper part of the property was initially leased by the previous owner to an advertising company (Publicis Caribbean Ltd), and the lower part (Fanatic Kitchen Studio) is leased to a restaurant. The property also has a car park with approximately 56 car park spaces, the majority of which were rented on a month-to-month basis to various neighboring companies.

Mitchell said when Dere Street Ltd changed ownership, it continued to honor those lease arrangements. Publicis vacated the property and terminated its lease in December 2022. After this, Dere Street Ltd engaged a real estate agent to secure a new tenant.

Mitchell said, “This resulted in a tenancy agreement with LMG Property Management. LMG is not an agent of Dere Street Ltd and does not provide property management services for it.” There is a tenancy arrangement between Dere Street Ltd and LMG. Mitchell said, “As far as I am aware, LMG intended to secure a subtenant to sublease the property, after conducting minor repairs after Publicis left, and to continue to honor the tenancy with Fanatic Kitchen Studio until a specified time.”

LMG agreed to sublet space at the property to Pan Trinbago for one year. Mitchell said that happened independently, without his influence or direction. “As far as I am aware, it was Pan Trinbago who approached LMG, having been referred to them by the real estate agent who previously had the listing and who was aware that LMG was seeking a subtenant.”

He said the arrangement between LMG and Dere Street Ltd permits LMG to sublet the property. When he learned about Pan Trinbago’s interest in subletting the property from LMG, Mitchell proactively spoke with Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore to discuss the potential perception of conflict of interest. While none existed, Mitchell said he asked her to “secure alternative accommodation to avoid the misconception.”

He added that Ramsey-Moore told him the property was ideal for Pan Trinbago’s immediate needs since it provided the location, parking facilities, and office space the organization required at that time. Mitchell said he advised that if no suitable alternative could be found to suit Pan Trinbago’s needs at that time, the organization should try its best to locate a permanent alternative location within the term of their one-year lease. He also said, “At no point have I or Dere Street Ltd ever received rent from Pan Trinbago.”

Mitchell reiterated his commitment to public service with transparency and integrity. “There has been no conflict of interest or impropriety in my conduct regarding this matter.”