A St. John's area candidate for the Progressive Conservatives at the centre of an ongoing legal dispute with his former father-in-law over nearly $100,000 is receiving the full backing of his party leader.
Ches Crosbie told CBC News he became aware of the lawsuit involving Mount Scio candidate Lloyd Power and Power's former in-law, Loyola Hutchings, during the candidate vetting process, and said "it's simply a private dispute" with "no moral aspect" to it.
"As far as I can tell it's just a civil matter between private individuals," Crosbie said.
"There's a private lawsuit. People get into these scrapes all the time. And that's what the courts exist for. I don't see much more to say about it."
When contacted Wednesday, Power refused to comment on the lawsuit, saying it was before the courts.
"This in absolutely no way impacts my role as an MHA. I've been a strong voice and advocate in my community for all my life. And that is where my focus always has been," said Power.
Cabin a 'marriage venue'
Loyola Hutchings is a St. John's-based contractor who alleges Power stiffed him for more than $94,000 in connection with the construction of a cabin in Tors Cove, according to court documents.
But Power, through a statement of defence, is denying any wrongdoing and counters that Hutchings only launched court action after the marriage between Power and Hutchings' daughter ended.
The dispute is playing out in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court, at the same time as Power campaigns to become the MHA in the St. John's district of Mount Scio, with the next court appearance set for November.
Unfortunately in the political game you always got a few people that are going to try to tear you down. That only motivates me even more. - Lloyd Power
"Unfortunately in the political game you always got a few people that are going to try to tear you down. That only motivates me even more. And that's where my focus will be," said Power.
Prior to earning a spot on the May 16 ballot following a three-person race for the party's nomination last month, Power served as Crosbie's constituency assistant.
The facts of the legal dispute, meanwhile, detail a love story gone wrong, with a "marriage venue" becoming the focus of a legal battle after Lloyd Power and Nicole Hutchings separated 15 months after exchanging wedding vows on Aug. 27, 2016. The couple has since divorced.
Loyola Hutchings alleges that Lloyd Power owes him $94,094 for the removal of an old structure and the construction of a new cabin on Power's land on School Road in Tors Cove.
"To date, Power has failed to … pay Hutchings any amount of the cost of the materials supplied or the labour to complete the agreed work," the statement of claim reads.
Home now listed for sale
The cabin is less than 1,000 square feet and is now listed for sale by Power at a price of $229,900. It is described as a "shell bungalow state that has the exterior completed and has the interior at the open stud stage."
Hutchings filed a statement of claim with the court on Dec. 19, 2017, roughly a month after his daughter and son-in-law separated, according to documents.
Hutchings alleges he entered into an agreement with Power in June 2016 for Hutchings to remove an existing structure and replace it with a new dwelling, to be used by Lloyd and Nicole as a "residence."
Power agreed to provide a promissory note for the costs, Hutchings alleges, and as further security, enter into a mortgage on the property "in favour of Hutchings."
Hutchings further alleges that Power refused to sign the promissory note or the mortgage, and has "failed to pay Hutchings any amount of the cost."
"The work provided at my cost has significantly enhanced the value of the property to Mr. Power's benefit and to my detriment."
'Gift of labour'
In a statement of defence, Power alleges Hutchings offered in the spring of 2016 to remove the existing structure and to construct a "shell" for a new cabin as a "potential venue" for the couple's upcoming wedding.
Power says Hutchings offered to "gift the labour" and provide materials at a "significantly discounted price," up to a maximum of $60,000. Power says Hutchings was advised to provide invoices to him before materials were installed.
Terms of repayment were never discussed or agreed to, and he never agreed to sign a promissory note or enter into a mortgage with Hutchings, Power says.
"(Power) denies the amount and his liability for the costs of materials, services and labour" claimed by Hutchings, reads the statement of defence.
Debt 'to be divided equally'
What's more, Power asserts that any debt owed to Hutchings "was to be divided equally" between him and Nicole Hutchings.
Loyola Hutchings is vacationing in Florida, and was reached by phone Wednesday. He acknowledged there was never a contract signed between him and Power.
"No. Gentleman's agreement," said Hutchings, who has worked as a contractor in St. John's for three decades.
"I've done 90 per cent of my work on a handshake. All the documents are there to support my claim. I can't see a judge ruling against it."
Well it's not a very good place to be. If you can't look after yourself in your own financing, how do you expect to look after the government. - Loyola Hutchings
"I'm in construction a lifetime and this is the first time in my life I've had to take this route in order to get paid."
Hutchings had this to say when asked what he thought about Power's political ambitions:
"Well it's not a very good place to be. If you can't look after yourself in your own financing, how do you expect to look after the government."
As for Crosbie, he believes Power will be a "super-duper representative" for Mount Scio if elected next month.
"I can tell you he's made a deep connection with many folks in that district," said Crosbie.
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