Sun | Sep 15, 2019

Letter of the Day | Integrity Commission erred; real estate values $54m more

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:18 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Daniel Thwaites’ column titled ‘Unreal estate ­declarations’ (Sunday Gleaner, August 18, 2019) conveys to the reader that, in his last ­statutory declaration to the Integrity Commission, my husband, Peter Phillips, declared the current market value of our real estate assets to be a grossly understated sum of $3,600,000.

The representation is inaccurate because, in fact, the estimated current market value declared by my husband for real estate for the year ended December 31, 2018, was not J$3,600,000, but rather, J$58,000,000.

Unsurprisingly, in the time between Sunday and now, other writers to your paper have restated the inaccuracy and you have also published them.

As my husband owns one of the declared real estate assets (our home) jointly with me, and the other (a tract of bare land) is owned by me solely, I consider the false representation to also adversely affect my own reputation by inferring that I was a willing participant in the alleged understatement of our real estate assets.

The facts are as follows:

1. Under cover of a letter dated June 3, 2019, the Integrity Commission sent my husband a copy of the summary of his declaration that it had prepared and asked him to state whether it was an accurate representation of his statutory declaration of the income, assets and liabilities of both of us as at December 31, 2018. In that summary, item 4 under ‘Assets’ had ‘Real Estate: JMD 3,600,000’.

2. In his written response to the Integrity Commission dated June 10, 2019, my husband identified and itemised “a few inaccuracies” in the summary the Integrity Commission had prepared saying, inter alia: “The asset value of the real estate of me and/or my wife, Sandra, (item 4) is not declared as JMD3,600,000.”

He went on to point out that the sum of $1,500,000 was the purchase price for our home on the acquisition date of June 21, 1991, and that the difference of $2,100,000 (then attributed by the Integrity Commission in its summary to the land owned solely by me) was, as reflected on its title, a parental gift to me from my father. In that letter, my ­husband stated the ­following, in writing, to the Integrity Commission: “In instances where your summary attributes a purchase price value to an asset, my preference would be for it to make it clear, perhaps by use of an asterisk and a footnote, that value represents the purchase price at the date of acquisition” [emphasis as in the letter]. He went on to confirm the accuracy of the Integrity Commission’s summary of his 2018 declaration, save and except for the inaccuracies identified.

INCORRECT VALUE

3. In its subsequent letter to him dated July 2, 2019, the Integrity Commission incorrectly stated that the amount of $1.5m for our home was entered by him as its value. It was not. That sum was inserted in the form under the column headed ‘Purchase Price’. The Integrity Commission went on to also say that it was imperative that a value be placed on all assets declared and that it had carried forward from his statutory declaration for the year ending 2000 (18 years before) a then estimated current market value of $2.1 million for the land owned solely by me.

4. By further written response dated July 3, 2019, to the Integrity Commission’s stated imperative that a value be placed on all assets declared, my husband provided the ­commission with estimated­ ­current market values of our real estate by way of an addendum to the information in his 2018 declaration as follows:

a. J$48,000,000 for our jointly owned residential home; and

b. J$10,000,000 for the bare tract of land owned solely by me.

Notwithstanding the written corrections and clarifications he provided, the Integrity Commission, by Gazette dated July 12, 2019, published, without material alteration or correction, the summary of my husband’s assets that it prepared and first sent to him under cover of its letter to him of June 3, 2019.

To be clear, my husband did not understate the current value of our real estate assets in his declaration for the year ended December 31, 2018. The gazetted summary of his declaration was not prepared by us.

Those are the facts which your columnist and you could have ascertained with a phone call to either my husband or me.

SANDRA MINOTT-PHILLIPS

Queen’s Counsel