The former general counsel for the V.I. Waste Management Authority has settled a lawsuit that claimed two former top officials for the agency made false statements about him, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
The attorney, Kelvin Vidale, filed the lawsuit in 2019 against former V.I. Waste Management Authority Executive Director Roger Merritt Jr. and the authority’s former chairman of the board of directors, Harith Wickrema.
Merritt served as executive director from November 2016 until his resignation in March 2018. Wickrema, who lives on St. John and is president of the environmental advocacy group Island Green Living Association Inc., served as chairman of the Waste Management board of directors from 2016 until March 2018.
The lawsuit claimed Merritt and Wickrema “published knowingly false statements to The Virgin Islands Daily News about Plaintiff,” according to Vidale, “in retaliation for Mr. Vidale engaging in protected First Amendment conduct, by lodging complaints about the VIWMA board of directors [‘Defendant Board’] in protest of the order of business at Defendant Board meetings and Defendant Wickrema’s efforts to use his official role to benefit personally; and by indicating Mr. Merritt’s failure to direct the operation of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority [‘Defendant VIWMA’] staff.”
Vidale went on to claim in the lawsuit that both the board of directors and the authority as a whole enabled Merritt and Wickrema’s conduct by charging him with “baseless allegations, placing him on administrative leave and unlawfully terminating Mr. Vidale from his position as general counsel of Defendant VIWMA.”
Vidale was employed as general counsel for the Waste Management Authority from April 23, 2013, through Jan. 17, 2017.
According to Vidale’s lawsuit, Wickrema also engaged in “malicious prosecution” of Vidale by making statements to a Daily News reporter that were published in an article on Dec. 20, 2016, titled “Waste Authority Puts General Counsel on Leave.”
On Wednesday, both Vidale and the defendants’ attorney, Ryan Stutzman, filed a joint stipulation for dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning Vidale could not refile his complaint in the future.
The parties “give notice that they have settled all claims arising from this action and hereby stipulate that the Court enter a dismissal with prejudice, each party to bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs,” according to the joint filing.
Vidale is currently employed as the special assistant attorney general representing the V.I. Bureau of Corrections.