Housing foundation board member Elston Fos speaks: “Lake knew what is going on”

POSTED: 12/18/14 11:03 PM

St. Maarten – Four candidates for the three vacant positions on the supervisory board of the Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation withdrew their candidacy this weekend “for fear of their lives,” attorney Jairo Bloem stated in a press release issued yesterday on behalf of the foundation.

It is the next step in an ugly situation that developed last week with a report that the managing director of the foundation, Henry Lynch had been suspended. Next thing anyone knew, someone attempted to shoot board member Elston Fos. The attempt on his life failed because the gun malfunctioned. Then Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake sent out a press statement on Monday in which he blamed – without mentioning his name – Fos for the situation at the housing foundation.

It was clear from the press statement that Lake did not have his facts straight. The supervisory board consists of five members (not seven, as the minister wrote) and the board is functional and legal, even if there is just one member left. Lake created the impression that the depleted board – with just two members remaining – had no authority to take any decision.

Elston Fos, who sits on the board as the representative of the tenants, told this newspaper yesterday that he has no idea who attempted to shoot him last Friday. “I have no enemies in St. Maarten,” he said. Asked whether he thought it possible that the failed shooting is unrelated to the developments at the housing foundation, he said, “I don’t know, I cannot comment on that.”

Fos puts the blame for what is happening at the housing foundation squarely on the shoulders of Minister Lake. “What he did – stopping the investigation by the government accountant bureau Soab – is wrong. He knew what was happening. The whistleblower told him what was going on.”

“An SMHDF board member has taken it upon himself after misleading another board member of the housing foundation who is unwell, and who was under the impression that the board member would speak with the Minister of Housing first about his plans to take this type of action,” Lake stated in his press release.

Fos: “That is not true. He wants to put it on me, but we did everything according to the articles of incorporation.”

Fos says that the board decided to ask the Soab to look into the perceived irregularities. “We wanted to see what was happening, but we did not fire anybody. It was not my decision, it was a decision taken by the board. And now Lake wants to stop the investigation.”

Fos says that the whole affair has affected a lot of people who wanted to be on the board. “They have pulled back, because they are afraid,” he said.

Returning to the investigation and the ongoing blame game, Fos noted: “We did not blame anybody. We got information that the previous board already had.”

Attorney Jairo Bloem issued an extensive press release yesterday morning that correlates with the statements Fos made above.

The foundation put director Henry Lynch and two other members of the management team until further notice on paid non-active duty last Friday. “This decision is amongst others premised on the severity of the preliminary findings and the desire to enable a proper, thorough investigation, with all available documentation and without any disruption,” Bloem’s statement reads.

On Sunday the Soab suspended its investigation temporarily at the email-request Minister Lake sent to it on Friday. With dismay, Bloem notes that Lake sent this request also directly to the suspended director, Henry Lynch.

Bloem points out that Lake’s email claims that the supervisory board’s decision to suspend Lynch lacks judicial basis and, “in short constitutes a sole action of one ‘rogue’ supervisory board member.”

The attorney notes that the minister “represented the facts incorrectly” and that he has “meddled in affairs beyond his direct scope of authority.” Furthermore, Bloem charges, Lake “meddled with matters for which he, contrary to the supervisory board members, does not carry any legal responsibility.”

The housing foundation and the housing finance foundation (SMHDF and SMHFF) find that it “would honor the honorable Minister M. Lake to correct his incorrect factual representations. It is one thing to want to have been consulted in also these last decisions for suspension and investigation beforehand and something entirely else to incorrectly state that those decisions are judicially flawed and to singlehandedly without previous consultation endeavor to suspend and independent investigation.”

Bloem’s statement furthermore relates –without mentioning his name – the attempt on the life of Elston Fos. “It is only by the grace of God that he is still alive after the handgun of the culprit trying to shoot him from a distance of 4 to 6 feet jammed three successive times.”

Four candidates for the board have in the meantime withdrawn their candidacy. “The Soab also expressed concern to SMHDF and SMHFF for not being able to guarantee the safety of its employees,” the attorney’s press release states.

The housing foundation remains “undeterred” in its resolve to have matters investigated by a professional independent forensic auditor. The foundation has approached other accounting firms in Sint Maarten and other islands in the former Netherlands Antilles for the job. If necessary, the foundation will approach “suitable parties” in the Netherlands.

The statement ends with the announcement that Henry Lynch is until further notice not entitled to legally represent the two foundations. Within short, the foundations will announce the appointment of an interim-director for the duration of the investigation.

Bloem’s statement outlines what occurred before the supervisory board commissioned its now halted investigation to the Soab last Friday.

There have been meetings between the supervisory board and “various informants” (Fos referred to one of them as a “whistleblower”). The board studied documents it obtained after these meetings.

Interestingly – confirming Fos’ statement that Lake knew what is going on – the supervisory board held meetings in the past with Lake “in which the disturbing findings were discussed and wherein the latter (Minister Lake) who also functioned as a supervisory board member in the past, supported further investigation and decisive actions.”

In a duly convened meeting the supervisory board members took a resolution “with unanimous consent” to commission the investigation and to suspend certain members of the management team. Lastly, there was a meeting between the supervisory board and representatives of the Soab. In that meeting, the terms of reference for the investigation were “discussed and approved.”

Bloem also points out that, based on the articles of incorporation, the supervisory board is entitled to represent the two foundations in case of conflicting interests between management and the foundations. “”There presently exists such conflicting interest,” Bloem drily notes.

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