Home News Local news ATTORNEY GETS 30 PERCENT OF V.I. SETTLEMENTS

ATTORNEY GETS 30 PERCENT OF V.I. SETTLEMENTS

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The V.I. government had to fork over to a private-sector attorney nearly one-third of its settlement proceeds in the AT&T case – approximately $1.8 million of $6 million. It has paid another $1.5 million for legal expenses incurred in that case and in ongoing litigation involving the contamination of Estate Tutu wells.
The money went to attorney John Dema, who was unavailable for comment Monday.
A contract Dema had with former Gov. Roy Schneider provided for him to receive 30 percent of the settlement he reached with AT&T on behalf of the government for ecological damage the company caused in laying fiberoptic cable near Butler Bay in 1996.
Under another contract dating from the Schneider administration, Dema is to receive 30 percent plus expenses for whatever money he recovers for the government from companies accused of contaminating underground water in the Tutu area.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron called the 30 percent rate "unheard of" and said Gov. Charles W. Turnbull "will not be engaging in those types of arrangements." Stridiron said he recently made a deal with outside counsel in a case for which the attorney will receive 16 percent of the proceeds.
AT&T paid a total of $9.5 million in settlement of the case that began with the V.I. government attempting to fine the company $23 million. The bulk of the settlement was paid in August – $1.9 million to the U.S government in penalties and about $6 million paid to the V.I. government through its attorney, Dema.
About a week ago, Dema turned over $4.3 million to the territory, having deducted his 30 percent fee of $1.8 million. Last year, he received $1.5 million, the initial AT&T payment, which was to cover expenses for the AT&T and Tutu wells cases.
By the time Stridiron presented a check to Turnbull last week in a ceremony covered by the news media, Dema had submitted about $1.1 million in expenses, including telephone calls, testing and expert witnesses, the attorney general said. So Stridiron announced at the ceremony that another $400,000 would be forthcoming from AT&T.
"We got instead a check for $250,000 with an updated report," the attorney general told The Source. This led to a meeting of Turnbull, Stridiron and Dema last week.
"The governor resolved that," Stridiron said of the matter late Monday. He declined to elaborate, deferring to Turnbull. A message left with the governor’s public relations office was not answered by late Monday night.

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