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"Humiliated" Palau VP Seeks At Least $1M In Damages

Palau Vice President and Minister of Justice Antonio Bells on Friday, sued former Interim Special Prosecutor (ISP) Melissa Simms, Attorney General John Bradley, and Bureau of Public Safety Director Ismael Aguon for “humiliation’ caused as a result of the misconduct of public office charges filed against him by the ISP last year.

Bells Simms Bradley Aguon

Civil Action No. 16-035 filed by Bells on April 22 is seeking damages of at least $500,000 from Bradley and $500,000 from Simms.

The lawsuit stemmed from an earlier misconduct in public office and code of ethics violations filed against him last year. On Jan. 11, 2016 however, Simms filed a motion to dismiss those charges on the grounds that the dismissal was in the best interest of the Republic.

Aguon, one of the named defendants, was earlier suspended for using foreign funds. Bells said the money should have gone through the Ministry of Justice; these funds were deposited into a Bank of Guam non-government account without authority.

Bells questioned Aguon’s authority to use the funds without approval of the Justice Minister, Budget Office, and Minister of Finance.

The funds, which amounted to over $100,000, were used to finance a joint training exercise, which involved US military and Palauan law enforcement personnel.

Bells wanted the court to declare the money as “public funds.”

“As a result of the defendants’ action, plaintiff’s life nearly came to a stop, and that he, his family, relatives, clan and supporters were personally disturbed, humiliated and traumatized,” the lawsuit stated.

Bradley was named defendant in the suit because, according to the civil action suit, he denied Bells representation and allegedly acted in anger by referring the case against him to the ISP to pursue misconduct in public office case.

The lawsuit, which was filed on the eve of Simms departure from Palau, also asked that the former ISP be “restrained by the court so that she can answer and account to her actions that causes losses and damages caused to plaintiff and the Republic of Palau.”

Simms resigned from her post the first week of April. Prior to her resignation, Palau’s lawmakers passed a resolution asking her to step down from her post due to the case she filed against Bells.

But in a Facebook chat with Pacific Note, April 26, Simms who has already left the country said she did not depart to avoid the lawsuit.

“I did not flee Palau. My travel was scheduled for approximately a week prior to my departure, and the government of Palau purchased the airline tickets for me and my daughter,” she stated.

The defendants were given 20 days upon receipt of the summon to file a motion in response to the lawsuit.

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