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Ex-chairman’s expenses request ‘manufactured’
A conservation group’s trustees have fought off claims from its former chairman which they believe would have bankrupted the charity.
Roger Amerena has been in dispute with the Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association (MCHA) in Brighton for more than two years.
The conservation group’s trustees issued a court claim alleging the former chairman, who resigned from the post in May 2010 after being made bankrupt, had not returned some of its property.
Mr Amerena, of Montpelier Hall in Montpelier Road, Brighton, responded with a counterclaim for £7,120 in unpaid expenses and a loan – roughly twice what the MCHA’s trustees said it had in its bank account.
But in a ruling at Brighton County Court, which was handed down in November, Mr Amerena’s claims were deemed “wholly spurious” and all but one was rejected.
In summing up, District Judge Vivien Liston said: “The claimant had no option but to defend the counterclaim as the very survival of the association was at stake.”
An eight-page document summing up the case showed MCHA, which was represented by chairman Jim Gowans, treasurer Chris Jackson and vice-chairman Mick Hamer, issued the initial claim worth £700 in January.
This included the return of commemorative plates, which the charity hands out at its conservation awards.
At a preliminary court hearing in May Mr Amerena returned some, but not all, of the property.
The largest amount in the counterclaim was an alleged ‘loan’ by Mr Amerena to MCHA for £2,938.22 relating to the Coach House project.
With money from 60 residents, Mr Amerena set up a community company to buy the 19th-century listed building in Clifton Hill, Brighton, for £325,000 in April 2006.
After it ran into financial trouble, MCHA paid bills to the company worth £2,938.22 in May 2007.
However, papers presented to the court said it was agreed that if the venture failed then the company would return the cash to the association.
The Coach House was sold in July 2008 but it took until August 2009 for Mr Amerena to pay the cash back to MCHA.
At the county court he claimed this was a personal loan and he was not acting for the company.
However the judge rejected his claims that the money returned to him.
She added a cheque stub, which had been apparently altered to read “loan for the Coach House”, proved nothing “save to illustrate the propensity of Mr Amerena to alter documents as and when the need arises”.
Mr Amerena claims for £2,368.98 in travel and telephone expenses going back to October 2004 were also rejected after he failed to provide any documentary evidence.
Judge Liston said: “I am at a loss to understand why he did not return all MCHA property to the committee when he resigned in May 2010; it took 21 months for him to start returning MCHA property.
She added: “It is clear to me that it was entirely necessary for the claimant (the MCHA) to bring the claim.
“The counterclaim in respect of the expenses claim and the ‘loan’ were in my judgment wholly spurious. The expenses claim was clearly ‘manufactured’.”
After all the claims and costs were added up, Mr Amerena was ordered to pay MCHA £5.41.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Amerena said: ““There were four claims and I won one and they won three.”
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