Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams was the last person to enter the courtroom on the second floor of the Port of Spain’s Hall of Justice at roughly 10am on Tuesday 16 October 2018.
John-Williams was there for cross-examination, as the TTFA attempted to defend itself against a claim for the non-payment of stipends and match fees made by 22 National Futsal Team players and five technical staff members.
The football president sat, slouched, in the chair closest to the exit. He was dressed in a blue jeans, white shirt and a construction boots—an outfit more in keeping with his Home of Football construction site in Couva than the High Court.
Earlier in his tenure, John-Williams would have general secretary, Justin Latapy-George, and vice-president Joanne Salazar for company on such excursions.
However, Salazar quit her post as vice-president last month—a seismic occurrence that John-Williams controversially kept from his board for two weeks before she made it public herself. And Latapy-George, who revealed the deception to Wired868, was recently told by the president to look for another job when his contract expires next month.
So John-Williams was alone in court. A few feet away, Futsal Team head coach Clayton Morris, team manager Ronald Brereton, trainer Brent Elder and captain Jerwyn Balthazar sat together.
The TTFA president often makes a habit of avoiding questions from this website, so Wired868 took the opportunity to get him warmed him up for his stint on the witness stand.
“So tell me David, if—according to you, not the constitution eh—the TTFA board has eight members who can vote, can you explain how exactly you got nine votes [to appoint Women’s National Senior Team coach Shawn Cooper]?” asked Wired868.
“You know we got nine votes?” John-Williams responded.
“Well, that is what your press release and the TTFA website said; your press officer and general secretary said you wrote that release yourself,” said the Wired868 reporter, with a quizzical look.
“All I know is I have the emails and messages to back it up,” John-Williams replied, with a smirk.
“To back what up?” asked an increasingly confused Wired868 reporter.
“You write what you want to write,” said John-Williams, as he crossed his arms and beamed. “I know I have my documents as proof.”
It was a typical exchange with the football president. He neither confirmed nor denied anything; nor did show the supporting evidence he claimed to possess.
And, more to the point, John-Williams appeared to instinctively know he was right, no matter what anyone else said.
His apparent refusal to accept any opinion other than his own has, more often than not, led the TTFA to the courts. In John-Williams’ first year in office, the local football spent TT$1.2 million on legal fees—an astronomical rise from the $82,270 spent in the courtroom by his predecessor, Raymond Tim Kee, in his last annual statement.
And, if anything, the TTFA’s legal briefs have climbed even higher since.
In each case, the TTFA was defendant. And, after three years, John-Williams is yet to announce his first legal win.
Their defeats so far include cases brought by former refereeing head, Ramesh Ramdhan and ex-general secretary Sheldon Phillip while television rights company, Telemundo, also enjoyed joy in its early skirmishes with the football body.
Past and present technical directors Kendall Walkes and Anton Corneal, former men’s and women’s senior team coaches, Stephen Hart and Carolina Morace respectively, and current National Under-20 coach Russell Latapy have legal matters in the works too—along with numerous less illustrious service providers.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of National Futsal Team players Bevon Bass, Ricardo Bennett, Dwayne Calliste, Kevaughn Connell, Jamal Creighton, Ishmael Daniel, Cyrano Glen, Kevin Graham, Keston Guy, Colin Joseph, Kerry Joseph, Curtis Julien, Jamal Lewis, Jameel Neptune, Kareem Perry, Adrian Pirthysingh, Akeem Roach, Anthony Small, Conrad Smith, Ronald St Louis and Balthazar; and technical staff members Perry Martin, Sterlin O’Brian, Brereton, Elder and Morris.
Annand Misir and Jenelle Ganess represented the TTFA while the Futsal squad were represented by advocate attorney Keston McQuilkin and filing attorney Melissa Roberts-John.
Morris, the former Strike Squad captain and local football hero, alleged that, in early 2015, he agreed financial terms with Tim Kee for his technical staff and laid the framework for the selection of his playing squad.
Balthazar confirmed that in April 2016, on the basis of a supposed oral agreement between John-Williams, Morris and Brereton, the players were offered e a US$40 per diem and US$200 match fee for national service. The technical staff members were due a similar per diem.
John-Williams never paid though while, for the 2016 Concacaf tournament, the Trinidad and Tobago National Futsal Team received a per diem of US$10 (players) and US$20 (staff).
Aghast at the paltry sum, at least one player refused to touch the money at the tournament in Costa Rica.
Forced to turn to the High Court, the Futsal players’ claim was adjusted to include a training compensation sum of TT$50 per session.
It added up to TT$273,000 in unpaid stipends and US$896 (TT$6,040) in unpaid per diem to staff; and US$22,000 (TT$148,000) in unpaid match fees, US$6,130 (TT$41,320) in unpaid per diem and TT$27,450 in unpaid training compensation for players.
There was also the matter of the reimbursement of US$221 to Brereton and TT$5,822 to Morris, which were spent on team expenses.
It meant a total of just over TT$500,000 for a team that was active between March 2015 and April 2016. During that time, they won bronze medal at CFU level in Cuba but were also temporarily ejected from their rooms at a Costa Rica hotel due to non-payment by the local football body.
John-Williams’ defence was that, he alleged, the appointment of the National Futsal Team’s technical staff did not follow guidelines established by the constitution. He also denied any oral agreement with Morris and Brereton.
Further, John-Williams essentially claimed that everything related to the National Futsal Team—including Tim Kee’s creation of the interim futsal steering committee—was unconstitutional and had nothing to do with his administration, which took office nine months after the team was activated.
And, as such, he suggested that the football body did not owe anyone a cent.
“The proper procedure for the appointment and/or selection of players as outlined in articles 36 and 55 of the TTFA’s constitution was not followed and at no material time did the TTFA and/or its board of directors, elected and appointed on 29 November 2015, select players and/or technical staff,” stated John-Williams, in his witness statement. “Any committees established without the board of directors is contrary to the TTFA’s constitution and consequently any such appointments are null and void.
“The TTFA has never agreed to any per diem rates or match fees as alleged or at all […] and as a consequence, it does not owe any stipends as alleged or at all. Any payments made were ex gratia and without prejudice, in full and final settlement of any outstanding matters.”
Article 36(j): The Board of Directors: shall appoint the coaches for the representative teams and other technical staff.
Article 55: The Board of Directors may, if necessary, create ad-hoc committees for special duties and a limited period of time. The Board of Directors shall appoint a chairman, a deputy chairman and an appropriate number of members. The duties and functions are defined in special regulations drawn up by the Board of Directors. An ad-hoc committee shall report directly to the Board of Directors.
One potential snag for John-Williams, though, was that the constitution used for the TTFA’s defence only came into effect on 12 July 2015, as evidence by article 83 of the same document.
This was more than two years after Tim Kee appointed a Futsal interim steering committee; and five months after the National Futsal Team began preparations.
Article 83: This Constitution was adopted at the General Meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 12 July 2015 and will come into force immediately upon ratification. It supersedes any previous constitution of the TTFA.
McQuilkin, tall, slim and dark, welcomed John-Williams to the witness box to discuss the TTFA’s stance in relation to his clients. He looked to be in his early 40s at the worst and spoke in short bursts, always demanding frequent but limited participation from his witness.
It was like a cat toying with a mouse. Not that John-Williams had any intention of being anyone’s chew-toy, as he remained resolute behind his own narrative.
McQuilkin: Good morning, Mr John-Williams.
John-Williams: Good morning.
McQuilkin: The evidence we have in your statement, you’d agree with me, says that the selection of the Futsal interim steering committee, the selection of the technical staff and the selection or the appointment of the players to the National Futsal Team was inconsistent with the constitution.
McQuilkin: And in particular you point to articles 36 and 55 of the constitution, with which I assume you are familiar?
(Throughout his cross-examination, McQuilkin seemed to spend more time looking in the direction of the judge, Madame Justice Margaret Mohammed, or anywhere but at his witness. It felt like a slight).
McQuilkin: And you’re familiar, I assume, with article 83 of that constitution. And you would agree with me that article 83 effectively says that that constitution, which you have attached, has come in effect on the 12th of July 2015.
(The attorney paused. The silence might have only lasted for 30 seconds; but it seemed an eternity).
McQuilkin: You must accept, based on our evidence presented yesterday, that the appointment of the steering committee, the selection and hiring of the technical staff, the selection of the players to the National Futsal Team and the agreement to pay the technical staff and those players took place prior to the 12th of July 2015. You accept that?
John-Williams: No. I will not accept that. Because, ahmmm, you…
(There was brief crosstalk as John-Williams insisted on explaining himself while McQuiklin was equally adamant that he not be allowed to do so).
McQuilkin: No, you may not explain, because I am asking you a specific question. Isn’t it accurate, sir—from the evidence that we’ve presented—that the appointment of the technical staff, by your predecessor Mr Raymond Tim Kee, took place prior to the 12th of July 2015?
John-Williams: Under Raymond Tim Kee, yes.
McQuilkin: As well, as the selection of the interim steering committee by your predecessor Raymond Tim Kee, took place prior to the 12th of July 2015?
John-Williams: By the evidence you have presented, yes.
McQuilkin: As well as the screening process and the selection of those players to the National Futsal Team under your predecessor Mr Raymond Tim Kee; [that] took place prior to the 12th of July 2015. Not so?
John-Williams: That is correct. According to the evidence.
McQuilkin: As well as the agreement to pay those players took place before July 2015?
John-Williams: According to your evidence. I am not 100 percent sure that that is correct…
McQuilkin: We will get to that… Now as well, the agreement to pay the technical staff under your predecessor Mr Raymond Tim Kee took place prior to the 12th of July 2015. Not so?
John-Williams: According to your evidence presented.
McQuilkin: It is not accurate?
John-Williams: According to the evidence you presented, yes.
(John-Williams looked pleased with himself. As though his qualified ‘yes’ was a victory of sorts).
McQuilkin: Good. That is the evidence that you challenge. And you challenge it on the basis of a constitution that came into effect on the 12th of July 2015. Not so?
John-Williams: That is correct.
McQuilkin: Good. So would you accept from me that the natural corollary—since you have already accepted the dates based on our evidence—the natural corollary is that all of those decisions that I just took you through, are not governed by that constitution?
John-Williams: Yes. But the previous constitution was…
McQuilkin (interrupts): Wait, hold on…
John-Williams (continues anyway): … it was similar.
McQuilkin: No, no, no sir. No, no, no. You don’t get that opportunity. Not at all. Don’t say anything now about anything [being] similar; you have no evidence. You accept that you have no evidence; you have not pointed to any previous iteration of the constitution that outlaws those agreements. You accept that from me?
(McQuilkin straightened up and stared into the distance. He looked like someone being forced to wait longer than expected for their order).
McQuilkin: Can you point us to a particular paragraph in your witness statement that you have provided as evidence to this court, which points out a previous iteration…
John-Williams: No, I can’t. No I can’t.
McQuilkin: So you accept from me it is not there?
John-Williams (lowers his voice): No, it is not there.
(McQuilkin served the court another pregnant pause).
McQuilkin: You accept from me as well that your evidence does not point to any rule or procedure prior to the 12th of July 2015, that says Mr Raymond Tim Kee could not have entered into an agreement for the technical staff of the National Futsal Team?
John-Williams: According to my evidence, no.
McQuilkin: You accept as well that you have not pointed to any rule or procedure that says that Mr Raymond Tim Kee, prior to the 12th of July, could not have appointed on behalf of the TTFA, an interim steering committee for the selection of the National Futsal Team?
John-Williams: That’s correct. I will accept that.
McQuilkin: You must accept that your [statement] is also bereft of any evidence that says Mr Raymond Tim Kee could not have agreed to the salaries or stipends payable to the technical staff?
John-Williams: I did not bring that evidence. No.
McQuilkin: […] And you must accept as well that you have provided no evidence or any rule or procedure breached by Tim Kee, acting on behalf of the TTFA, for the process for the selection of the players for the national futsal team.
John-Williams: My evidence does not say that.
McQuilkin: […] Do you also agree with me that you presented no evidence that denies there was an agreement between the TTFA and these claimants for the appointment of a technical staff of the national futsal team? […] Or [evidence] that denies that there was an agreement between the TTFA and the players and technical staff to pay a stipend to them.
John-Williams: No, I have not presented any evidence.
McQuilkin: You also have not presented any evidence that denies there was an agreement between the TTFA and these claimants to pay them a per diem of US$40 per day and a match fee of US$200 per day.
John-Williams: My evidence does not say that.
McQuilkin (pauses): Isn’t it accurate Mr John-Williams, that your national football coaches—national men’s team, women’s team, under-20—those coaches are paid?
John-Williams: It depends…
McQuilkin: I’m not talking about whether or not you all actually pay them eh…
John-Williams: I have to be very clear, because there are many instances from my own knowledge where coaches are seconded and sometimes not paid. So to make a general statement…
McQuilkin: Okay, is the national coach of the men’s football team paid?
McQuilkin: Is the national coach of your women’s football team paid?
McQuilkin: I know there was some issue as to whether or not he was paid but isn’t the coach of your national under-20 men’s team paid?
McQuilkin: In fact, he is probably owed some salaries still…
Misir: That is not relevant to this case.
McQuilkin: Yes, it is.
(There was a brief verbal exchange before Justice Mohammed asked the two attorneys to address her and not each other).
Misir: Your honour, that statement is prejudicial to the witness and has no relevance or bearing on this matter and these claimants.
McQuilkin: My lady it does. This is a case about national coaches who’ve not been paid. It provides evidence of past conduct, consistent with what we’ve just said. I’m not asking your ladyship to determine at all whether the under-20 coach has been paid; that is not what I’m asking you to do.
Justice Mohammed: Alright. I will allow the question. Repeat the question.
McQuilkin: There is evidence in the public domain that the coach of the National Under-20 Team is owed money?
John-Williams: That’s correct.
McQuilkin: So these payments…
John-Williams (interrupts): … Let me add he is under contract.
McQuilkin: Of course, no problem…
John-Williams (interrupts again): He’s under contract.
McQuilkin: I’m not on that; I’m about to ask you another question. Those payments that have been made to your national coaches who you say have been paid includes all of the work that they do for the preparation of the respective national teams. Correct?
John-Williams: That is correct.
(McQuilkin listed, in detail, the various stages of creating the National Futsal Team from the screening of players to the selection of the squad, training, etc. He asked John-Williams to verify each step).
McQuilkin: So you agree with me, Mr John-Williams, that with relation to the National Futsal Team, you have not disputed at all in your evidence—you have not denied at all—that players for the National Futsal team were screened, were selected, engaged in training sessions, travelled to two tournaments… You have not denied that National Futsal staff oversaw the selection, screening and training for the national team. [And that] you provided absolutely no evidence that the technical staff of the National Futsal Team was paid for all of those things I just itemised for you.
John-Williams: That’s correct.
(McQuilkin went on to point out that—despite John-Williams’ claim that the Futsal team was an unlawful creation of his predecessor—there were cheques and other documents on the team’s behalf done by the current administration. He notes a request for funding, sent to Sport Company manager Anthony Creed, for the team’s travel to Cuba for the CFU qualifiers in January 2016).
McQuilkin: […] You will accept from me that the letter says and itemises a football travelling delegation to Cuba… You see a list of those names: Ronald Brereton, Clayton Morris, Brent Elder, Sterlin O’Brian, Brent Elder… All members of the technical staff, not so?
John-Williams: According to your evidence, yes.
McQuilkin: Sir, this is a document that was agreed by both parties.
John-Williams: No. Let me explain.
McQuilkin (interrupts): No sir…
John-Williams (refuses to concede): … No. I need to explain!
McQuilkin (interrupts again): No, no…
John-Williams (raises his voice): I need to explain!
Justice Mohammed: Mr John-Williams! You are to answer the questions posed by counsel!
John-Williams (lowers his voice): Okay, sure.
McQuilkin: This is a document that was agreed to by both parties, a document that [both parties] admitted to its authenticity.
McQuilkin: And it is a document which is written and signed by your general secretary, identifying these particular persons as those who are travelling to Cuba as a national futsal delegation.
John-Williams: That is correct.
McQuilkin: Good. (Pause) Is it correct that the TTFA, under your stewardship, would have paid for travel expenses for the National Futsal Team?
John-Williams: Through the Ministry, yes.
McQuilkin: You would have facilitated it. You did not object to it being paid. Is that not accurate?
John-Williams: We didn’t have a choice.
McQuilkin: Did you object to it being paid?
John-Williams: We didn’t have a choice. If we didn’t send the National Futsal Team to the tournament, we could have been fined and banned. The National Futsal Team was registered in the tournament prior to our administration coming into being…
(McQuilkin sat down, held his chin and stared blankly into an empty area of the courtroom—as though in an exaggeration show of patience—during John-Williams’ speech. As soon as the football president was through, the attorney appeared the dismiss the entire monologue).
McQuilkin: Did you object to it?
John-Williams: No, we didn’t.
(The attorney went on to itemise things John-Williams’ administration did for the supposedly illegitimate team, from uniforms, refreshments and travel insurance to plane tickets. The John-Williams-led TTFA also sent Morris and Brereton to the Concacaf draw for the Futsal tournament while press officer Shaun Fuentes was flown to Costa Rica to report on the team’s performances there. It was the TTFA that sent the list of players and technical staff members to Concacaf prior to their final tournament in April 2016; and John-Williams himself signed on one cheque for the squad).
McQuilkin: Did you give us any evidence of your objection to the continued training and participation of the National Futsal Team for that tournament in April and May?
John-Williams: Well, we were left without a choice…
McQuilkin (interrupts): Did you provide us with any evidence?
McQuilkin: Good. (Pause). Is there any evidence, sir, that you paid your technical staff for their participation in that tournament, based on what was agreed by the TTFA?
John-Williams: The cheque that was written indicated what we paid them for, which was a per diem, as part of their agreement to participate in the tournament.
McQuilkin: Good. So that was a per diem. And the specific answer now for my question: is it consistent to what was agreed between them and the TTFA?
John-Williams: I can’t answer that question because our administration did not have a specific agreement. I mean if you, ahmm…
McQuilkin (interrupts): So you can’t answer that question?
John-Williams: I can’t answer that question.
McQuilkin: Okay. You provided any evidence that you paid your technical staff a monthly stipend for their attendance at those two tournaments?
McQuilkin: And the evidence we went over already is that you pay your national coaches and technical staff for their attendance at tournaments. Not so?
John-Williams: If there was a contract, yes.
McQuilkin (gazes at an unoccupied section of the courtroom again): Your evidence is that you pay your national coaches and technical staff for their attendance at tournaments. Not so?
John-Williams: Yes. If they have a contract.
McQuilkin: There was no rider… There would have had to be another agreement. There was none.
McQuilkin: You have not denied that the National Futsal Team, on national duty for this country, [were] put out of their hotel in Costa Rica.
John-Williams: I have not denied that. They were not put out; they were in the lobby…
McQuilkin (interrupts): You have also not denied that the manager, Mr Brereton, had to take from his personal expenses to pay for the continued accommodation of the National Futsal team on national duty for this country. You have not denied that?
John-Williams: I did not give evidence to that effect.
McQuilkin: Instead what you have done is come to this court to give evidence and rely on a constitution that does not even cover the period that we are describing, in an attempt not to pay these persons who performed national service.
John-Williams (after a brief pause): I relied on the constitution that existed.
(McQuilkin paused again)
McQuilkin: You would accept, Mr John-Williams, you provided no evidence at all of any objection by you on the grounds of constitutionality or illegality to the participation of the National Futsal Team in the CFU tournament or the Concacaf tournament. [You] never objected on the grounds of constitutionality or illegality to the technical staff of the National Futsal Team.
John-Williams: No, I didn’t provide that evidence.
McQuilkin: […] My lady, I have no further questions for this witness.
(Misir gets on his feet. He spoke so softly that his voice only carried to the back of the courtroom in snatches. But he did not speak for long).
Misir: You were elected president in November of 2015?
John-Williams: Yes. November 29, 2015.
Misir: When did you first [inaudible].
(Whatever Misir said drew a sharp and prompt rebuke by the judge).
Justice Mohammed: The question does not arise.
(Misir appeared to mumble an apology before trying a different line).
Misir: Is there any record that…
Justice Mohammed: Don’t try that!
The TTFA’s attorney sat down and John-Williams was invited to leave the witness box.
At the back of the courtroom, the football president assured Wired868 that he was confident in the football body’s paperwork for the case. And then, as Justice Mohammed agreed on 12 and 16 November deadlines for the final submission of documents before a 13 December decision, the football president shuffled out of the door.
On 24 November, John-Williams must face the music in a different era, as he confronts a vote of no-confidence at the TTFA’s AGM. But, when that time comes, the burly administrator would be the one holding the gavel.
And, although Look Loy’s barely contained contempt is no cakewalk, at least John-Williams will not have the deal with the McQuilkin’s meticulous and diminishing sniping.