Horses race at the Ellis Thomas Downs in Sea Cows Bay in 2015. The track is currently closed amid a land dispute. (File Photo: DAVID HELDRETH)

Government continues to deny that it “exited” a lease agreement with the Thomas family for part of the Ellis Thomas Downs in Sea Cows Bay.

The Ministry of Education and Culture announced the horse track’s closure on Sept. 8 despite a horse race scheduled for 10 days later. A week later, government denied that it canceled a lease granted to the Thomas family.

Last week in the House of Assembly, opposition member Carvin Malone asked Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie De Castro whether the ministry instructed the Attorney General’s Chambers to exit the lease agreement with the Thomas family.

Ms. De Castro responded in the negative.

“No instructions were given to the Attorney General’s Chambers to exit the agreement. The lease wasn’t exited,” she said during the Oct. 25 HOA meeting. “Representatives of the Attorney General’s Chambers merely highlighted to the Thomas family issues with the lease, which fundamentally affected the legal validity of the document.”

Those issues, she said, included the fact that the lease wasn’t signed by a natural or legal person but by a “purported entity” that doesn’t have the legal capacity to contract with the government, and that the lease wasn’t signed by the registered proprietor of the land.

Ms. De Castro didn’t provide further details, and Mr. Malone didn’t ask a follow-up question on the topic.

The leases

He instead asked Ms. De Castro to provide a list of leases currently held by government relating to the Ellis Thomas Downs.

Ms. De Castro answered that government holds two leases: one with the Thomas family and “Ellis Holdings” and another with Cecil Forbes.

“The lease agreement for Ellis Holdings is $90,000 annually to be paid by Feb. 15 each year. The term of the agreement is 20 years, which commenced Jan. 1, 2012 and ends Dec. 31, 2031,” she said. “The lease agreement for Mr. Cecil Forbes is $80,000 to be paid in November each year. The lease expired in December 2021.”

Both leases are registered and will be made available to the public, according to Ms. De Castro.