Ashley accused of ‘bad faith’ actions
Defendant Charlene Ashley has been accused of “acting in bad faith” and trying to “go behind” the back of developer Juliet Holness to cover up alleged misdeeds as a trial involving an $800-million unfinished apartment complex intensifies.
Those assertions were put to Ashley on Friday as she was cross-examined in the trial of the claim brought by Holness’ company, JAJ Development and Holdings Ltd, against Ashley for a title.
JAJ bought a piece of the Leas Flat, Red Hills, St Andrew, property (Lot One) on which Ashley lives in 2012 for $22 million. JAJ’s portion is Lot Two. A condition of the sales agreement was for Ashley to deliver a splintered title when requested.
Ashley has countersued, accusing JAJ of trespassing on Lot One. The trial started in the Supreme Court on May 16 before Justice David Batts. The issue of an access road to Lot Two has also emerged as a major point of disagreement.
Ashley claims that she could not produce the title requested on October 30, 2012, because of problems with the subdivision and Holness’ alleged failure to turn over drawings of development. Holness has rejected a title received in December 2022, claiming it provides an access road below the minimum requirement.
Ashley completed commenting on witness statements Friday morning and spent the rest of the day being cross-examined by JAJ’s attorney, Rose Bennett-Cooper.
“Would [you] agree with me that when you signed this agreement for sale without disclosing the terms of the conditions of subdivision approval that you were acting in bad faith?” the lawyer asked.
“Most definitely not,” replied Ashley, a marketing consultant.
The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) approved the subdivision in December 2011, almost a year before the sales agreement was signed in October 2012.
But Ashley has testified that she rejected the approval because of three conditions: that there should be no vehicular ingress or egress from her lot on to the Leas Flat main road; that her driveway be concealed; and that a concrete wall within the 6.2 metre-wide access road for the apartment complex between the lots be demolished.
In earlier testimony, Ashley indicated that “to protect their interest”, she and her husband, Earl, applied for the subdivision after Holness allegedly said she would no longer do it despite an agreement in writing.
Ashley said there were emails in 2009 from Holness indicating Holness’ position. She said those emails were submitted to the court, but Bennett Cooper insisted that they were not among the evidence.
Meanwhile, Ashley admitted that up to when she signed the sales agreement in October 2012, she did not share with Holness a letter from the KSAMC dated January 5, 2012, advising of the subdivision approval.
“During those nine to 10 months after you got that letter from the KSAMC, did you communicate with Holness in writing about the subdivision approval,” Bennett-Cooper asked.
Ashley said: “I did not communicate in writing. I communicated with her on several occasions … .”
“Between the time of signing the agreement for sale in October of 2012 to August of 2020 when this matter was filed in court, that’s over a period of eight years, is there anything before this court showing that you communicated in writing and provided a copy of the subdivision approval to either JAJ or Holness or their attorneys?” Bennett-Cooper asked
According to Ashley: “There was reason to share. She already had a copy.”
... JAJ attorney questions Ashley’s honesty in letter to KSAMC
It has emerged during the ongoing trial of the claim brought by Juliet Holness’ company, JAJ Development and Holdings Ltd, against defendant Charlene Ashley, that in June 2012, the KSMAC rejected Ashley’s request for an amendment to a problematic subdivision condition.
Ashley has blamed the absence of the approved drawings she wanted from Holness, a member of parliament first elected in 2016, and wife of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, for that decision.
JAJ’s attorney, Rose Bennett-Cooper, cited a letter dated March 6, 2012, that Ashley wrote the KSAMC, accepting the subdivision approval, except the three clauses with which she had a challenge.
According to the lawyer, it was “not entirely true” of Ashley when a week ago, she said she had rejected the subdivision approval.
Ashley’s honesty was also questioned when the lawyer suggested that she was not truthful in telling the KSAMC, in a subsequent letter dated April 15, 2012, that if the problematic clauses remained, she would have to abandon her gate.
“What you wrote in this letter was not the full truth, was it?” the lawyer said.
The lawyer argued that Ashley’s driveway was to be moved and placed on the road that leads to the apartment complex.
She also noted that Ashley did not object to a condition that vehicle ingress and egress from her lot be taken along the access road between both lots. Ashley said she did challenge that condition “based on discussions” with Holness.
But the attorney insisted that based on the subdivision approval, the 6.2-metre access way “would be for the use of Lot Two as well as Lot One”. Ashley disagreed.
In special condition 20 of the sales agreement, Ashley agreed to provide an easement from her lot, “provided that it is agreed that no such easement shall result in the removal or alteration of the vendor’s gateway, or any concrete structures” on Ashley’s property.
Meanwhile, JAJ has also argued that Ashley did not get permission to indicate in the application for subdivision to the KSAMC that access to the apartment complex would come from a neighbouring lot and not hers.
“Did you get permission from Mr [owner of neigbouring lot] to put an access from his property to Lot Two that you were selling to the claimant?” Bennett-Cooper asked.
Ashley said that “yes, there were discussions from the get-go” with Holness and the owner of the neighbouring lot.
Bennett-Cooper pressed: “Have you provided any evidence to this court of this permission? Did you get permission in writing?”
Ashley responded: “I wouldn’t have thought we needed permission because Holness was buying the lot.”
She added that Holness gave her a copy of the sales agreement with the neighbour, as well as the drawings of the intention. But she said the approved ones were needed to support the request for an access road.
“You have not provided any such evidence of this approval that you are suggesting exists,” the lawyer asserted.
Said Ashley: “As we communicated with her (Holness), we wrote to KSAMC with her blessings. We then continued to ask for the said drawings because we would have needed to have something that was approved. KSAMC would not accept just a site-plan sketch.”
Bennett-Cooper did not accept that, stating: “I put it to you that that is not an accurate reflection of what happened in respect of access Lot Two. I put it to you that the purchaser [Holness] did not agree or give you any permission for Lot Two to be accessed from [neighbour’s lot]. I put it you that neither did you get any such permission from [neighbour].”
According to the attorney: “The only reason that you were insisting on seeing the purchaser’s development approval was in order to go behind her back and show it to the KSAMC to try and prove that you had the neighbour’s permission. Isn’t that true?
“Definitely not,” Ashley said.
The trial will continue on July 25 and 26, with Ashley still in the witness box.