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Feb 27, 2003

U.B. president defends hiring of Lindo

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Of all the accusations of irregularities mentioned in Wednesday’s U.D.P. press conference, perhaps the most intriguing is that of nepotism at the University of Belize. Today, News 5 spoke to U.B. interim president, Dr. Corinth Morter-Lewis, about how it came to be that a Taiwan trained attorney, who is not a member of the Belize Bar, was hired to give that cash strapped institution legal advice.

Corinth Morter-Lewis, Interim President, U.B., Via Phone

“Mrs. Lindo, yes, is retained as a legal consultant. In terms of the issue of conflict of interest, she is qualified in the post she has, in the position that she is being employed. And the fact that she is the wife of a member of the board, I don’t think necessarily conflicts with employing somebody if they are qualified for what they have been asked to do.

Janelle Chanona

“What about the point that she’s not a member of the Bar?”

Corinth Morter-Lewis

“Well she is a consultant only, she does not represent the university legally, if there’s an issue that needs to go to the court. As far we are concerned, a consultant in this case can provide advice, which is what her job is.”

Janelle Chanona

“And she was the only one qualified? I mean we have several members in the Bar Association that would be qualified. She was the only one the university saw fit to hire?”

Corinth Morter-Lewis

“Well I can’t answer that question in the sense that when she was hired I was not on board at the university. Exactly how the process was effected, I cannot at this point say. I don’t know how it was done, so who else may have been available to do the job at the time, I’m not conversant with that.”

Janelle Chanona

“Going now to her contract then, she is getting forty-eight thousand dollars a year, if I have been made to understand correctly, to provide services in an area where, yes, she may be qualified to some degree, but she is not able to practice in Belize.”

Corinth Morter-Lewis

“The way we look at it, legal services are expensive and if we had to retain a lawyer to provide services in an ongoing basis, on call whenever we have something that is of concern, to be able to call them in, it’s likely that perhaps the cost would be greater if we sort of went that route.”

Janelle Chanona

“Technical explanation aside, public perception out there, given that this thing was exposed as a scam, you understand that it does look bad for the university. What’s your response to that?”

Corinth Morter-Lewis

“Well I hear what you’re saying, and I guess perception does make a difference in terms of how people see the situation. All I can do, is to give you from my perspective what it is we have to deal with at U.B., the work we have that requires addressing, and therefore the people we have to bring on board so that we can do the business of the university.”

Barrow alleged on Wednesday that the provision of paid legal advice by someone not qualified to practice law in Belize is an illegal act. Mrs. Lindo’s contract runs through November of this year.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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