Case closed: Mayor settles building debt

DISPUTE OVER: Mount Gambier Mayor Andrew Lee has reached an agreement with building contractor Roger Doody ending a long-running civil dispute over an unpaid debt.
DISPUTE OVER: Mount Gambier Mayor Andrew Lee has reached an agreement with building contractor Roger Doody ending a long-running civil dispute over an unpaid debt.

A CIVIL dispute between Mount Gambier Mayor Andrew Lee and a local building contractor in relation to an unpaid debt is over, following a “deed of settlement” between the two parties.

The matter was before the Adelaide Magistrates Court yesterday morning and the plaintiff, Roger Doody, discontinued the action against the mayor after the matter was settled by agreement outside of court.

The long-running dispute started when Mr Lee avoided paying an outstanding sum of $68,278 to his contractor Mr Doody, despite the builder’s efforts to retrieve the money.

Mr Doody claimed Mr Lee agreed the final bill was accurate, but told him he did not have sufficient funds to pay.

After almost two and a half years of Mr Lee refusing to respond to his requests for payment, Mr Doody decided to take legal action by filing a claim for the money on February 2 this year.

Mr Lee was given 21 days to respond to the claim, however failed to do so, leaving Mr Doody the opportunity to apply for a judgement.

The defendant can apply for the judgement to be set aside, however the mayor still did not act on the legal proceedings.

As a result, Mr Doody applied for a charging order, which was ordered by Magistrate Kennewell on June 1.

The charging order restricted Mr Lee from selling the properties until the debt, costs and interest, totalling $70,669 were paid in full.

Speaking to The Border Watch in July, Mr Doody outlined the impact the civil dispute was having on his life.

“I paid everyone for the job … it knocks you around, it is hard enough missing wages, let alone having to pay for materials for someone else,” Mr Doody said.

In his decades as a building contractor, Mr Doody said he had never been owed this much money for a job.

“Sometimes people are slow, sometimes I am slow too, that’s business, but I have never had anyone owe me this type of money,” Mr Doody said.

Following the charging order, Mr Lee sought legal advice in August to have it lifted and help defend himself in court.

In August, the mayor was given seven days to pay the court $77,000 into a “suitors’ fund” to have the order on the properties lifted.

Once the money was paid to the court, Mr Lee was able to settle his properties and he indicated that he would continue to try to defend himself on the matter.

A month later, defence counsel for Mr Lee had to show good reason for why a defence was not filed within the time limit when the first claim was made in February.

Mr Lee claimed the solicitor he previously instructed did not act quickly enough.

A magistrate accepted the explanation and the judgement was set aside, giving Mr Lee the chance to file a defence.

The matter was listed for a directions hearing yesterday in the Adelaide Magistrates Court, however the action was discontinued by Mr Doody in light of the deed of settlement between the two parties.

Due to an agreement of confidentiality between the two parties, the exact details of the agreement were not available for publication.

MATTER RESOLVED: Roger Doody stands outside the two units on George Street, which he built for Mount Gambier Mayor Andrew Lee in 2014. Picture: TODD LEWIS