A ruling from Supreme Court Justice Westmin James on Monday states that the Commissioner of Police Chester Williams acted in bad faith. This is concerning a civil suit brought against the Commissioner by Corporal Eldon Arzu, the former chair of the Belize Police Association. Arzu was elected Chairman of the Association from 2012 up until 2019 when Williams with the approval of the Public Service Commission, amended the Rules, prohibiting someone from serving as chairman for more than two terms. In January 2019, Arzu was reposted from the Welfare Office to the Planning Performance Review and inspection Unit. That same month, via a memo, Williams instructed the Association to choose a new chairman and that Arzu cannot be elected. In his response, Arzu told Chester that the 2019 SI was not retroactive and that his appointment was lawful. In response, Williams instructed Arzu to present assets of the Police Association for inspection. Williams refused to recognize Arzu as chairman, sending out a Memorandum indicating that no work by Arzu as Chairman of the Association is to be honoured. In court, Arzu was represented by Attorney Nazira Myles who explained why the Justice ruled in her client’s favour.
Nazira Myles, Attorney for Eldon Arzu: “As you are aware we were seeking certain declarations and order from the court as it relates to Mr.Arzu’s chairmanship of the Police Association in 2019-2020 as well as issues which arose from what the Commissioner called a reposting but we were claiming that it was an illegal transfer, an unlawful transfer and we were likewise claiming that those decisions be quashed and the court ruled completely in favor of Mr.Arzu quashing the decision to repost him on the basis that it was an unlawful transfer that did not comply with the policies that were in place so he is to be immediately reinstated to where he was originally posted which is the Anti Narcotics Unit. Likewise there was a previous decision in this same claim of the preliminary issue that the SI did not have retrospective effect so he should have been able to work as the chairman of the association in 2019 when he was elected. So the court found that him being unable to do so was a breach of his legitimate expectation. His main defense focused around the allegation that he acted at all times in compliance with the career management and transfer policy which is the basis upon which he indicated that he had reposted Mr.Arzu and that at all times he acted in the best interest of the police department and that there was no bias or prejudice against Mr.Arzu.”
Justice James ruled that Williams acted in bad faith. He stated that the decision of the Commissioner was made in breach of the principles of natural justice, procedural fairness and due process. Myles explains.
Nazira Myles, Attorney for Eldon Arzu: “We alleged and claimed that there was bad faith and the court found and the judge said to put it mildly that there was some bad faith and he listed in the judgment different circumstances, actions by the Commissioner, which was the basis of his decision. It is clear from the judgement that the judge was able to see – and it is not on what he believed but it was based on certain admittance by the Commissioner himself during cross examination, by documents that were circulated based on the commissioner’s instruction blocking Mr.Arzu so I think the evidence was so clear that there was bad faith, that there was bias in how Mr.Arzu was treated in these circumstances all to an end how the judge put it, to prevent him from being the chairman of the association. So the details were there where he got himself overly involved in matters of the association when those are for the central board to make a decision. Officers who are higher than sergeant rank should not vote, should not be involved in association business. Additionally he circulated a memo to all head of departments or formations that nothing Mr.Arzu does or tries to do as chairman of the association should be honored. He moved and wrote to the banks where the association had an account blocking any transaction by the association and putting a hold on the account. So there are a number of actions by the commissioner which the court found satisfied the court sufficient enough to be bad faith.”
According to Myles, the Justice also ruled that the decision to repost Arzu from Welfare Office to Planning Performance Review and Inspection be squashed immediately.
Nazira Myles, Attorney for Eldon Arzu: “The SI was passed on the 9th of January 2019. Mr.Williams along with witnesses had always maintained -his legal advisor – that it has a retroactive effect and that that is why Mr.Arzu should not and was not allowed to act as chairman despite the association electing him as a member of the board and then the board electing him as chairman. The court had earlier on in this matter ruled that it does not take into consideration is previous terms as chairman and it was moving forward from 2019 onward. So if that was the interpretation given to the SI then Mr.Arzu really and truly has not served two terms which would have prevented him from serving in 2019. And even during the trial of this matter the COMPOL admitted during cross examination that that was his view and he maintained his view that it was passed and Mr.Arzu could not be chairman but the court found otherwise that he should have been allowed to act as chairman. Really and truly as it relates to the chairmanship because the association has elections every year and it’s done yearly the term has passed where he could act as chairman so no order could have been made to that effect however not allowing him to act as chairman and transferring him unlawfully did have certain consequences or actions by the commissioner being that he was not paid salary for two months on the basis that he was not at the proper post and then his allowances were discontinued, he was transferred to a different branch, the compliance branch where he should have returned once he was not allowed to act as chairman so it is those consequences or those actions that we will now enforce in seeking that he is paid the salaries which he did not receive, his allowances which were unlawfully discontinued and like the judgment said he’s to take up his post back at the Anti Narcotics Unit with immediate effect and with full benefits.”
Our understanding is that the Commissioner who was represented by Agassi Finnegan and Lavina Cuello intends to appeal the decision.