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Friday 13 December 2019
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TTFA loses multi-million-dollar suit for wrongful dismissal

In this Nov 15,2016 file photo, ex-TT coach Stephen Hart, left, walks with his assistants Hutson Charles, centre, and Derek King, 
after losing to Honduras.  -  Allan V. Crane/CA-images.
In this Nov 15,2016 file photo, ex-TT coach Stephen Hart, left, walks with his assistants Hutson Charles, centre, and Derek King, after losing to Honduras. - Allan V. Crane/CA-images.

THE TT Football Association now has an additional $5 million to pay out in court-awarded compensation.

The latest multi-million-dollar payment is to former men’s national section team head coach Stephen Hart for wrongful dismissal and unpaid salaries and bonuses.

Hart, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, filed the action in 2017, and received judgment in default by Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell yesterday after the TTFA failed to defend the lawsuit.

The amount the TTFA has to pay was only what Hart said was owed to him, and does 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 travelling.

The lawsuit also said in November 2016, the TTFA gave Hart a one-month termination notice followed by a letter by 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 the 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, 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.

On Monday, the TTFA opened its 72-room, US$2.5 million Home of Football in Balmain, Couva.

John-Williams said his administration was working towards restoring its “dignity and reputation” with Fifa, Concacaf, the Government and corporate TT from the “shambles” it met in 2015. He said the TTFA’s audited financial reports were up to date and the association was working towards having its Fifa funding restored.

The TTFA will hold elections on November 24.

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