THE already cash-strapped Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) must now fork out an additional $5 million in compensation to pay former men’s national senior team head coach Stephen Hart for wrongful dismissal, unpaid salaries and bonuses.
Yesterday’s ruling was the second such order made against the TTFA in less than two months by the High Court.
In September, Justice Joan Charles ordered the TTFA to pay its former technical director, Kendall Walkes, $5.4 million for wrongful dismissal in March 2016.
The latest ruling, a default judgment, was delivered at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday by Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell, after the TTFA failed to enter a defence in the lawsuit filed by Hart after his contract was terminated by TTFA president David John-Williams in November 2016.
Hart’s contract was due to come to an end in December 2018 but he was terminated from the position of head coach two years prior, based on his alleged “conduct” that resulted in “just cause for termination”.
This was relayed to Hart in a letter from the TTFA on November 29, 2016, but the letter failed to give particulars of the purported “just cause”.
Speaking to the Express during a telephone interview yesterday, Hart said he was satisfied with the outcome of the case.
“I’d just like to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring the matter to an end. When people work, they should expect to be paid for it. And people should know that every action has a consequence. Other than that, I don’t know what else to say,” he said.
According to the contract, the TTFA was allowed to terminate his employment with just one month’s notice if he had failed to perform his duties in a professional and timely manner, and/or committed any felony or misdemeanour that involved moral turpitude or otherwise exposed the TTFA to disrepute or public embarrassment.
Just one week before his termination of employment, there were allegations that Hart had risked the life and health of goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams by allowing him to play against medical advice of team doctor Dr Terence Babwah and medic Dave Isaac in a World Cup qualifier against Honduras in November 2016.
Williams was knocked unconscious in the match during an on-field collision.
In his claim, Hart, who was represented by attorneys Keith Scotland, Reah Sookhai and Sheriza Khan, was seeking a total of US$742,000 in compensation representing salaries, bonuses, hexagonal (World Cup qualifying) bonus and travel expenses.
The amount sought was awarded.
The TTFA had failed to pay Hart his base salary for the period September to October 2015 of US$20,000 per month and September to November 2016 of US$25,000 monthly in accordance with clause three of the contract.
The TTFA had also given Hart a short payment of $5,000 for the period July to August 2015.
He was also seeking payment of salary from December 2016 to December 2018 at a rate of US$25,000 per month.
Hart was also entitled to bonuses, one of which was an additional compensation of US$10,000 on the condition that the national team placed in the Hexagonal.
But in spite of this condition being fulfilled on September 2, 2016, to date he has not received payments, according to the court documents.
Hart, who is now employed by HFX Wanderers in the Canadian Premier League, opted not to pursue damages against the TTFA.