Court officer’s Role in US$33K check scandal Exposed

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Drama unfolded last Friday at the National Labor Court when Justice in Chamber, Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie was compelled to mandate Judge Comfort S. Natt of the National Labor Court to immediately reopen the Baptist Theology Seminary (BTS), after the judge had shut down the seminary for over two days.

Justice Wolokollie’s action was based on evidence from GN Bank, previously First International Bank (FIB), that the US$33,000 was received and signed for by the Sheriff of the court, Major Helena Williams.

Besides, Judge Natt acted in response to her Sheriff’s ‘misleading information’ that the seminary had refused to honor the court’s ruling to pay the remaining US$33,000 of the US$240,000 owed Dr. Lincoln Brownell, then president of the seminary, thereby contradicting the bank’s communication.

A copy of the bank’s communication, under the reference “Confirmation of Check Paid Ricks Institute Operational Account,” is with the Daily Observer.

Dated June 15, 2016, the letter reads, “This letter along with the attached bank statement and cancelled check are being submitted as confirmation on the February 14, 2014, encashment of the check number#000486814 on Ricks Institute’s Operational Account number 05, 112, 050297-01 with First International Bank (Liberia) (FIB) issued to Helena N. Williams in the amount of US$33,000.”

It continued, “The check in question was cashed by Ms. Williams at the bank’s Main Branch on Broad Street, Monrovia, Liberia.”

In the record, it said, “We trust that this information adequately serves the purpose intended.”

Before the bank’s clarification, Judge Natt had instructed the seminary to pay Dr. Brownell’s money in the name of her Sheriff, Major Helena Williams, and Counselor Nicholas Edward, who is the lawyer for the BTS former president. The seminary began the payment of the US$240,000 from December 2013 until its completion in March 2016.

It was from that money that Major Williams argued that US$33,000 was not paid.

It all started when Judge Natt on June 8, through a Writ of Execution, ordered Major Williams to seize and expose for sale lands, goods, and chattels of the management of the BTS until the amount as final payment of the US$33,000 to Dr. Brownell was realized.

Besides, Natt commanded her Sheriff to arrest the president and bring him to her court; and to deal with him in accordance with the law, unless he paid the money.

Under the directive, Major Williams went to the seminary and ordered 250 students and staff from their classes and the dormitory before sealing the entire compound.

She also issued an arrest warrant on the seminary’s expatriate president, who had just arrived in the country from USA for the commencement convocation that is expected to take place on June 26.

It is unclear whether or not Judge Natt had an idea about the final payment of US$33,000 made by and through the Ricks Institute account at the GN Bank that Sheriff Williams claimed had not been paid.

Not being satisfied with happenings at the Labor Court regarding the US$33,000 and subsequent closure of the seminary, the Baptist authorities proceeded to the bank for clarity on the money.

They and their lawyer, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, on June 8, took the bank document to Judge Natt as part of their evidence that the full amount owed Dr. Brownell had been paid, thereby appealing for the reopening of the seminary.

After receiving the documentary evidence, Judge Natt immediately called her Sheriff to reconcile the statement; but to the surprise of the Baptists, Major Williams denied ever collecting the money from the bank.

It was due to her denial that the Seminary retrieved from GN Bank, previously First International Bank (FIB), check #000486814 dated February 13, 2014, that was paid to Major Williams in the amount of US$33,000.

The document had Major Williams’ signature on it and the signature of Teller #3 of the bank that issued the money to Williams.

Her signature also appeared on the statements of the Ricks Institute account that paid the money for the period covering February 14 to 20, 2014.

The money was in US$20 denominations, numbering 1,650 pieces, totaling US$33,000.

Not knowing that there is a document to expose the transaction, Judge Natt in consultation with her confidant, Major Williams, on Thursday, June 16, published the Writ of Execution in a local daily.

The seminary said the publication has brought embarrassment, disrespect and damages to its detriment, and has gone wide on the international media that their expatriate president has been cited by a court in an arrest warrant.

Up to press time, it was not clear whether or not the seminary would take further action against both Judge Natt and Sheriff Williams, although Associate Justice Wolokollie had authorized the reopening of the seminary.

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