The day after public urging from Premier Andrew Fahie, Speaker of the House Julian Willock last week dropped his appeal against a High Court order to swear in Mark Vanterpool as the Fourth District representative in the House of Assembly.
Mr. Willock declined to comment on Tuesday, but the move suggests that he is likely to follow Mr. Fahie’s advice to swear in Mr. Vanterpool at the next HOA sitting.
If he does, he could bring closure to a controversy that has raged since Mr. Vanterpool announced and then rescinded his resignation days after the Feb. 25 general election.
When Mr. Willock refused to swear him in, Mr. Vanterpool sued, launching a legal battle about the validity of his resignation and his right to sit in the House.
The District Four hopeful won the first round of the case on May 2, when High Court Justice Ann-Marie Smith ruled that the speaker should swear him in as soon as possible.
But five days later Mr. Willock appealed that decision, sparking protests outside the HOA and a petition to Governor Gus Jaspert, who, like Attorney General Baba Aziz, has argued that Mr. Vanterpool should be sworn in.
The premier remained tightlipped about the situation until last week, when he released a statement on June 16 saying that he had urged Mr. Willock to reverse course.
The matter, the premier said, “has been hanging over the territory for an inordinate amount of time and has become a source of discord and bitterness that is undermining the harmony and family spirit which is the soul of our society.”
He went on to criticise Mr. Vanterpool harshly for resigning and then changing his mind, and he maintained that Mr. Willock took a “strong legal and moral stance” by defending his position in court.
Mr. Fahie nevertheless stated that he had “intimated” to Mr. Willock that it was time to move past this “dark episode” for the sake of the territory, particularly the residents of the Fourth District.
He added, though, that the speaker has jurisdiction over the House, and that it ultimately was up to Mr. Willock to make the decision.
The day after the premier’s statement, Mr. Willock discontinued his appeal.
The case is likely to cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Mr. Willock has said that his legal costs were being covered by the government, and since he lost the High Court case his side could be ordered to cover Mr. Vanterpool’s as well.
Opposition leader Marlon Penn alleged last month that the costs from Mr. Willock’s side were already in the $100,000 range, and that Mr. Vanterpool’s were around $80,000.
Attempts to reach Mr. Vanterpool were unsuccessful.