Archive for June 13th, 2013

CINICO fails to comply with FOI law

| 13/06/2013 | 1 Comment

micky.JPG(CNS): Despite upholding CINICO’s decision not to release their unaudited financial statements for the financial year ending 2012, the information commissioner said the government’s insurance company repeatedly failed to comply with the law during the latest open records request dispute. Jennifer Dilbert said that throughout the course of the request, investigation and hearing discussed in her 30th decision, CINICO “repeatedly contravened the provisions of the FOI Law”, as well as the policies and procedures of her office. She said that from request to hearing, there were delays and noncompliance “at almost every step of the process”.

The applicant was seeking a copy of CINICO’s financial statements for 2011/12 and even though under the terms of the Public Management and Finance Law they should now be a public document, Dilbert upheld CINICO’s decision to defer the release until the accounts have been audited and tabled in the Legislative Assembly or until a reasonable time period had elapsed.

However, in this latest ruling Dilbert highlighted the procedural failures from start to finish and said that most seriously, “contrary to the requirements of section 7(5)” of the law both the information manager and the principal officer failed to provide the applicant with reasons for withholdingthe responsive record, and it was not until well into the appeal that the reasons were provided.

Dilbert recorded that the timeallowed by law to conduct an internal review was exceeded and records were only provided to her office after many delays and repeated prompting, and a submission giving CINICO’s views in writing, as required under section 43, was not provided by the date agreed in the Notice of Hearing.

“A submission was forthcoming only after I personally informed them that as the burden of proof lies with the public authority to show that it acted in accordance with its obligations under the Law, I would order the record released if they did not provide same. Computer issues were cited as the reason for the delay, which was verified by their IT service providers,” she stated.

The full decision and the catalogue of failures by CINICO from 20 November, when the statutory authority denied access to the requested records without giving any reasons under the FOI Law, through to 29 April of this year, when Dilbert wrote to CINICO to say that she was ordering the release of the documents if she did not receive submissions by 1 May, are posted below.

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Deputy governor’s minutes continue to shrink

| 13/06/2013 | 39 Comments

(CNS): The latest minutes released by the deputy governor’s office are continuing on their decreasing path with very little information about the high level civil service management meetings. The minutes, which record the 27 May meeting, indicate that Deputy Governor Franz manderson had met with Alden McLaughlin, who was the Premier Elect at the time, to discuss the 'Rationalisation of the Public Service' and that a presentation was going to be provided to the newly elected government. The minutes also reveal that the current version of the sexual harassment policy was to be presented to the deputy governor for approval, following a review by the Legal Department.

However, very little else is revealed about what was discussed between the public sector bosses during the meeting, which lasted until 3:15pm

See a copy of the minutes below.

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Ambulance blocked on way to 7MB emergency

| 13/06/2013 | 32 Comments

(CNS): Updated — The 81-year-old man who died during an ocean swim on Thursday morning off Seven Mile Beach has been named as Louis Janvier DeBiase. Amid concerns that the ambulance was delayed in getting to him because of barricades placed along the service road in the recently closed area of the West Bay Roadpolcie say there appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. A police spokesperson confirmed that the RCIPS received a report a little before 11am on Thursday (13 June) that the man had got into some difficulties swimming in the Calico Jack area. He was reportedly pulled from the water and taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, where he was pronounced dead.

However, it is understood that the ambulance also got stuck as it tried to leave the scene across the newly sanded area of the former road.

Police said Thursday afternoon that they had no further details and enquiries were continuing into what had taken place. However, there is every indication that the closure of the West Bay Road and the sand covered strip added to the emergency services difficulties in reaching and leaving the scene.

Police confirmed  that DeBiase was visiting Cayman on a cruise ship from New York state.

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Rivers’ election challenged

| 13/06/2013 | 261 Comments

rivers swear.jpg(CNS): An eleventh hour petition filed in the Grand Court is challenging the election of Tara Rivers as a member of the Legislative Assembly for West Bay. The petition has been filed by attorney Steve McField on behalf of John Gordon Hewitt, the husband of Velma Powery-Hewitt, the UDP candidate who came in fifth in the district poll. The court action is asking for Rivers' election to be overturned, as it claims she holds an American passport and did not fulfill the residency requirement to qualify as a candidate, and return Hewitt as the fourth elected member for the district. However, if successful, the petition may instead trigger a by-election because of the significant votes polled by Rivers that could have gone to other candidates had she not stood for election.

Hewitt's claim centres on the fact that between October 2006 and May 2009 Rivers was resident in London, where she was working for law firm Allen & Overy. Rivers has said that during that period she was studying and therefore had a legitimate exception to the requirement in the election law that states all qualified candidates must be resident in the Cayman Islands for seven years before Nomination Day.

Hewitt also states in the petition that Rivers was born in the US and continues to hold a passport through her own act, which also disqualifies her from office. The petition states that the returning officer, Delano Solomon, failed in his duty to ascertain from Rivers whether she was resident for a period of seven years before Nomination Day or if she was still an American citizen, and was therefore wrong in accepting the nomination.

The petition states that Rivers' nomination was null and void and, as such, Velma Powery-Hewitt, the petitioner's wife and UDP candidate who was fifth in the poll, should be returned as the duly elected member for West Bay.

Rivers ran as a candidate with the Coalition for Cayman. However, she was invited by the new premier to join the PPM government as minister for education and employment after she was elected to the Legislative Assembly in a dramatic victory as the second elected member.

Her removal from office would not alter Alden McLaughlin's majority, since former premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly officially joined the PPM, giving the party 10 out of the 18 seats, and both Winston Connolly and Roy McTaggart have also joined the government benches, but it would throw the front bench into disarray.

Should the challenge be successful and Hewitt was returned, the UDP would have four candidates, which together with the two independent members would leave the opposition benches with six members across from a PPM government of 11.

However, a successful challenge may not see Hewitt automatically returned because further challenges may result in a by-election as other candidates could legitimately argue that if Rivers had not participated, the significant votes she attracted could have gone to candidates other than Hewitt.

The petition was filed in Grand Court on 12 June, just hours ahead of the three week deadline provided for in the law for any qualified voter to object to the election result. It was filed by Steve McField, who is no stranger to the election challenges. Following the 2009 election, McField had spoken widely about Dwayne Seymour and Mark Scotland's failure to fulfill a constitutional requirement to gazette their business interests with government by the deadline and questioned their qualification.

However, in a controversial turn of events, McField  joined the UDP legal team defending an action filed against the two Bodden Town candidates by six voters. That action was filed after the three week deadline as an originating summons, which was thrown out by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie.

The details of the objection were never aired as the chief justice found the law suit was not the vehicle for the challenge and the voters should have filed via the petition, as provided for in the election law, before the deadline.

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CIG takes cheap seats to UK

| 13/06/2013 | 88 Comments

simmcl (248x300).jpg(CNS): The four man delegation that has gone to London to meet with both Mark Simmonds, the Foreign Office overseas territories minister, and British Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the G8 meeting flew to the UK in premium economy, saving almost $20,000 in airfares for the public purse. Premier Alden McLaughlin, Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, Finance Minister Marco Archer and Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson were all seen in the premium economy seats on board the BA flight to London on Tuesday evening rather than the far more expensive business class.

According to British Airways, the current cost of a return ticket from Cayman to London in premium economy is around $2,500 per passenger, while a business class ticket is more than $7,000. As a result, the decision to fly in the cheaper seats for the nine hour plus overnight flight has cost the public purse around $10,000 rather than costing over $28,000 if the new government team bought business seats.

Starting as they mean to go on, the PPM administration appears to be putting their money where their mouth is and cutting down on the extravagant travel costs run up by the former UDP administration, which became infamous for taking large delegations on extravagant trips.

It is understood that McLaughlin and the team has had a brief meeting with Simmonds at the FCO and the Cayman delegation is expected to sit down with the OT minister today to discuss the country’s public finances. The premier has said he hopes to persuade Simmonds to stretch out the currentthree year plan to reduce local borrowing and find some leeway for the 2013/14 budget so that some of the damaging fees that have stifled the local economy can be reduced.

The team is then expected to attend two pre-G8 meetings with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street to discuss the territory's commitment to the latest OECD tax information sharing and exchange initiative.

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Bermuda holds back over latest tax initiative

| 13/06/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Bermudian government appears more reluctant than Cayman’s leaders to commit to the latest international OECD tax initiative ahead of the G8 summit, as Prime Minister David Cameron had hoped. The territory's premier has said he is willing to commit to more transparency but is not ready to sign the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax matters. The PM has invited the leaders of Britain's territories and crown dependencies to London in advance of the annual gathering of the G8 group, which will be hosted next week by the UK in Northern Ireland. While all three crown dependencies and the Cayman Islands have already given their commitment to the latest convention, if Bermuda and other territories refuse to sign, the UK government’s goal to get what it has described as its "own house in order" before the summit will be missed. Read more on CNS Business

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Mac took cash in Vegas

| 13/06/2013 | 0 Comments

mirage-hotel-and-casino.jpg(CNS): A new indictment filed in the local courts in connection with the charges against former premier McKeeva Bush shows that, despite comments by the RCIPS that charges against him had not been dropped, the UDP leader is no longer charged with theft. Nevertheless, the former premier is still facing eleven serious charges that relate to him taking cash or using his government credit card in casinos in Las Vegas, Florida and the Bahamas. On eleven different occasions between July 2009, just weeks after he was elected, and April 2010 the crown alleges that Bush made more than $50,000 of illegitimate transactions. No longer alleging theft, the new indictment still accuses Bush of unlawfully using the card while travelling.

Bush now faces six counts of misconduct in public office under the common law and a further five charges of breach of trust under the anti-corruption law, all of which would attract imprisonment penalties if Bush were to be convicted.

The Cayman Islands first premier is accused of beginning the illegitimate transactions with the government Royal Bank of Canada card in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, between the 10-15 July 2009, when he took $5,236 and incurred charges of $122.72. This is followed by more than $3,000 at the same hotel casino chain in Tampa just over a month later in August 2009, again with related charges.

In September, back again at the Seminole in Hollywood, Florida, he took over $1,500 and a further $2,016 was taken from the same location in October 2009, plus over a $1,000 and $2,000 spent on two separate occasions in November, the indictment alleges.

In 2010 the charges change from misconduct to breach of trust as a result of the implementation of the anti-corruption law. The alleged crimes are of a similar nature but also include transactions in Las Vegas, a non-business trip, and in the Bahamas, as well as more transactions at the Seminole in Hollywood, Florida.

In January 2010 Bush was back at the Hollywood Seminole, where he is alleged to have used the card to the tune of $3,012 on one occasion and a further $1,004 two days later. Then, in February Bush was in Vegas, where he allegedly spent almost $12,900 at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, the Bellagio Hotel and the Venetian Las Vegas Casino.

Just over a month later in March, transactions totalling more than $17,000 were allegedly recorded at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, as well as the Seminole in Hollywood, Florida. The last offence on the indictment alleges another unlawful transaction at the Seminole of more than $1,000.

Bush has categorically denied all of the allegations against him and stated that, where necessary, the money was paid back. On the campaign trail he said the cash withdrawals were for legitimate purposes as well as for his own security and medical assistance for his wife .

However, other sources allege that not all of the spending  considered unlawful has been paid back. Furthermore, Bush also has to contend with the fact that government credit cards cannot be used  to take cash, buy alcohol or for any other purpose than legitimate public business expense and they cannot be used as a source of advances. It is alleged that Bush also used the card on several occasions when he was travelling for pleasure.

Bush is due to appear in Grand Court on Friday 28 June.

See full indictment below.

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Stormchaser Sailing Regatta

| 13/06/2013 | 0 Comments
Hello Everyone
Here is a short press release on last weekend’s Stormchaser Sailing Regatta.
Stormchaser marks the start of hurricane season and features youth and adult sailors.
Sorry the action shots are low res. All I could get.
I will be away as part of the cruising fleet racing to Cuba tomorrow 13 June– will hopefully get you some good shots of that.
Rick Caley
CISC Club Manager
Tel: 1 345 947 7913
Cell: 1 345 926 7914
Face Book

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PAC trouble ahead

| 13/06/2013 | 47 Comments

southeastcorner.jpg(CNS): Following the revelation that Roy McTaggart had decided to join the government benches last week, government said it planned to re-balance the Public Accounts Committee but it has not indicated how it plans to achieve the new line-up, which McTaggart will still chair. North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said Tuesday that he has no intentions of accepting any nomination for PAC. The independent member said eleven members voted against him last time and if his political ally, Arden McLean, also refuses, government would be forced to turn to the opposition UDP benches for a candidate. This could spell trouble ahead because the first reports PAC will consider are understood to be critical of the former UDP government.

Miller, who started as the PAC chair under the UDP administration, looked like the ideal candidate to join the committee now that McTaggart is sitting on the government benches. However, he told CNS there was no way that he would accept a nomination onto the PAC.

"Given that eleven of the members voted against me last time, I have no intentions of putting myself through the same humiliation as the House obviously doesn’t wish for me to be on that committee,” he said.

CNS has contacted East End MLA Arden McLean, who sits with Miller in the 'southeast corner' of the Legislative Assembly. While it is understood that he is also reluctant to accept the PAC nomination, there has been no response stating his position.

With UDP Leader McKeeva Bush already on the committee, should the independents both decline the invitation, the re-balance will include one of the other two UDP MLAs, Captain Eugene Ebanks or Bernie Bush, who will join McTaggart and two of the government back-benchers. Al Suckoo, Joey Hew and Winston Connolly were voted onto the committee following the swearing in ceremony at the end of last month and one of them is expected to resign before the re-balancing act occurs at the next LA sitting.

If they are replaced by a UDP member, this could increase the friction as the first four reports that will be delivered to PAC from the Office of the Auditor General sometime this month will be examining the spending and management of finances during the UDP administration and their findings are understood to be quite critical.

Miller also said that McTaggart would find himself in conflict in time as reports that will be produced over the longer term would be about this government.

McTaggart, a first time MLA for George Town whose campaign was endorsed by the Coalition for Cayman group, initially elected to sit with the eastern district members in the 'southeast corner' but later had a change of heart and decided to cross the floor to the government benches. He was then appointed as a councillor to both the minister of finance and the minister of financial services.

“Given that he will be now be involved in the policy and preparation of government budgets and finances, it will no longer be suitable for him to chair that committee,” Miller added.
Although PAC members in most countries are usually from the back-benches without any direct government duties, the decision by McLaughlin to put all hands on deck coupled with the size of the legislature means the PAC government members will all be working in government support roles, which Miller said was wrong.

The constitution needs to be changed, he said, in order for the premier to make the councillor, or junior minister, appointments because those roles are not provided for in the country’s ultimate law.

This is a point that McLaughlin has refuted, as he says the constitution clearly provides for a minister to appoint a committee in support of his duties. The premier has said that policy decisions will still be made by the ministers in charge but with such significant workloads ahead they all need support. The decision to appoint councillors, he said, was driven by the workload the government is facing, a desire to be as inclusive as possible and to utilize the skills and experience of as many members as possible.

However, Miller claims that the provision for a committee does not cover these appointments, and while he supports the concept, he believes that they still need to be lawful. He also took aim at McLaughlin, who he said had criticised the former UDP premier when he introduced the idea during the last administration and appointed MLAs at the time Cline Glidden and Ellio Solomon to the roles.

“If it was wrong for McKeeva Bush, then it must be wrong from Alden McLaughlin, too,” he said.

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