Archive for July 15th, 2013

Pines case stalled as police wait for details

| 15/07/2013 | 41 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS has confirmed that they are still waiting on details of a theft which is alleged to have taken place at the Pines Retirement Home. Sue Nicholson (left), the former manager, was dismissed by the board atthe old folks’ home in George Town and left the islands under a cloud of suspicion following revelations that a sum of money had gone missing. However, although a report was made to the police about a possible theft, a police spokesperson stated Monday that the RCIPS is still waiting for statements and details of the crime in order to begin an investigation. In March the board of directors issued a public statement indicating that KPMG was undertaking a forensic audit and preparing a report for the authorities.

The board also said that Maples and Calder was assisting in the recovery of the missing funds, although it was understood that Nicholson had left Cayman. Since then it appears that the board has not given the RCIPS any further information.

“We have received a complaint of a theft but no statement on the details of how much was stolen or any other details,” the RCIPS said Monday.

The police are aware of an alleged crime but no one has yet given a statement explaining the details or offering a starting point for an investigation, nor has the Pines board of directors detailed how much was missing or under what circumstances. It did state in March, when it confirmed that Nicholson had been dismissed, that the sums involved did not affect the operation of the home and the directors were confident that the losses would be recovered. However, there has been no indication since then if any of the money has been returned or why the board has not yet offered details of the crime to the police.

The Pines is a privately run non-profit facility for elderly members of the community dependent on charitable donations. Although it also receives funding from government, two thirds of its costs are covered by the funds it raises from the private sector. As well as caring for the 35 residents, the home provides a programme for senior citizens who live independently or with their families but require daytime support, as well as temporary respite care for several more.

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ERA cancels award to Dart for power generation

| 15/07/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): In the wake of numerous controversies in connection with a request for proposals to supply an extra 36MW of power for Grand Cayman the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) has canned the bid. The ERA had announced in February that Decco, Dart’s construction company, had been selected to begin negotiations with CUC over the details of how and how much in connection with the generation of future power. However, the authority has now cancelled the solicitation for the additional power. The ERA said Monday that it was as a result of “unavoidable and unforeseen delays” that interrupted the timetable for the various milestones in the RFP which could no longer be achieved. Read more on CNS Business

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Driver charged with killing brother in road smash

| 15/07/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police confirmed Monday that they have now charged a 26-year-old man with causing death by dangerous driving in connection with an early morning fatal crash which happened in Prospect more than eight months ago. Eduardo Robinson is accused of killing his younger brother, 24-year-old Egbert Robinson from Bodden Town, in the single car collision in Mangrove Avenue in October 2012 when the car he was driving smashed into a wall. Robinson, who was also injured in the crash, has been released on police bail until his court hearing. Egbert Robinson was the fifth person to die on Cayman’s roads last year.

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Con man’s sentence slashed

| 15/07/2013 | 42 Comments

(CNS): A local businessman who was serving a four and a half year prison sentence after he was convicted of conning almost $100,000 from customers of his geo-thermal air conditioning systems had his sentenced almost halved by the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal Monday. In the first case before the three judge appeal panel in this summer's session, Ben Tonner of Samson McGrath successfully argued that the jail time handed down to his client, Derrick Thomas, by Justice Charles Quin in April was too harsh. The higher court, led by the president Sir John Chadwick, found that the judge’s starting point was too high when they cut the sentence down to two and a half years.

Thomas was convicted following an eleventh hour guilty plea to five out of sixteen counts in connection with a serious of thefts between June 2009 and January 2010, where he took money from several customers for the installation of the specialist air-conditioning systems but never followed through on the work. He was also convicted of obtaining services by deception in connection with bad cheques he gave to Cayman Free Press for the advertising he placed to promote his business.

Justice Quin had described Thomas as the “consummate con man” who was unable to manage his business properly, when he handed down the hefty sentence as a result of Thomas’ previous convictions for dishonesty and because he had accepted the crown’s position that the theft was also a breach of trustcase.

However, the appeals court disagreed with the sentencing judge’s position. They found that this was not a traditional breach of trust case as Thomas was not a lawyer, accountant or an employee of a professional services firm but had conned his customers out of deposits or money on accounts that they would expect to pay up front for in the normal course of events for any type of contractual work. They also noted that the sums that Thomas stole, although considerable, were not enough to place it in the highest brackets of the sentencing guidelines for theft as set out by the chief justice.

The judges noted that Thomas as a business man was a “complete disaster” but when he realized he was not able to fulfill the obligations under the contracts he had made, instead of calling a halt to the situation he carried on selling the concept and taking money from new customers for contracts that he knew he would never be able to meet.

“This was not a case in which it can be said that he set out with the deliberate intention of defrauding customers with a dishonest business but rather a case of being ill equipped to conduct the business, and when it went wrong … he continued to take money from clients knowing he was not going to provide the services,” the president said as he read the appeals court's findings. “Instead of calling a halt when he could see that failure was inevitable he went on trading.” They also noted his previous history of dishonesty, which had a similar pattern.

Nevertheless, the higher court found that the Grand Court judge had not justified his high starting point of five years in his sentencing ruling, which he discounted to four as a result of the, albeit late, guilty plea.  “Four years was manifestly too high and the judge does not explain how he reached his starting point,” Justice Chadwick added.

The appeals court also examined the six month term added to the four years for theft for the bounced cheques regarding the adverts, which led to the aggregate four and a half year stretch. While the appeals panel agreed that the judge had every right to view the obtaining services by deception conviction separately from the thefts from customers, they found Quin should still have viewed the sentence in the round and considered what the additional six months would mean to the total.

As a result of the too higher starting point, their rejection that it was a breach of trust case and the need to view the sentence holistically, the appeals court judges reduced the sentence for the four counts of theft to 27 months and the six months for the bad cheques to three months, coming up with a new sentence of just 30 months and a reduction of two years on Thomas’ original term.

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Manderson says no promotion without performance

| 15/07/2013 | 56 Comments

(CNS): With the continuing changes and the move towards accountability and transparency, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has made it clear that performance and not just time served will dictate the promotion of government workers. According to the minutes released by his office from the civil service bosses' meeting on 24 June, the deputy governor spoke about the need to improve performance management throughout the civil service and for “upward mobility” in the public sector to be linked to performance. During the meeting government heads agreed that when staff are being considered for promotions, their last two performance assessments would be reviewed.

Where a performance assessment is not available, the senior staff decided that a report would be written by the employee’s line manager. In addition, Manderson told the chief officers that he intends to use a version of a 360 degree assessment as part of their performance assessments and encouraged them to use the HR tool themselves to assess their own heads of department.

These types of assessment include feedback from all staff in an immediate work circle and not just the heads. The assessments ask for the opinion of those who work under the managers and their peers as well as their superiors and a self-evaluation. Manderson indicated that the senior employees should complete staff assessments as soon as possible after the interim budget.

He also revealed that the 2011/12 Annual HR Report for the civil service, which contains information, key statistics and trends impacting human resources within the public sector, was completed and would be published.

With staffing issues at the forefront of the meeting, Manderson said that he hadreceived a proposal from CIGTV for a program that would air once or twice per month highlighting what happens within the civil service, which was to be discussed further with the cabinet secretary and his team.

See 24 June minutes below.

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West Bay woman faces jail time over stabbing

| 15/07/2013 | 2 Comments

(CNS): A West Bay woman (21) who was charged with stabbing a man outside a house on North West Point Road, West Bay, during a social gathering some 18 months ago has been found guilty of unlawful wounding. Following a judge alone trial presided over by acting Justice Michael Mettyear, Bianca Vega escaped the first more serious charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm but was warned she still faced jail time after the judge rejected her claim of self-defence and stated that she had “overreacted”.  Vega had admitted stabbing Norman McLaughlin but the judge was not convinced that she was under the threat she had claimed as he cautioned her to prepare for an immediate prison sentence, as he delivered his verdict Friday and extended her bail for one more week.

During the trial Vega claimed she was waiting in the yard for a friend when the victim began acting belligerent and calling her names while accusing her of gossiping about his sexuality. She said the victim threatened her and motioned with a chair that he was going to hit her twice. It was after he faked the motion a third time that Vega stabbed him twice in his chest with a 3-inch push-up blade, which was never recovered as the defendant said she threw it in the ocean.

Following the incident Vega gave herself up to the police andtold them she had stabbed McLaughlin in self-defence.

Justice Mettyear rejected most of the witnesses' accounts as he believed they were drunk and unreliable. In addition, he expressed regret that, despite there being many witnesses to the incident that could have helped, most chose not to come forward.

While he observed that most of the witnesses appeared to be unreliable he also said he didn’t accept Vega's allegation that the victim faked the intent to hit her with the chair twice. He also said her reaction was “not reasonable”, adding that she “grossly exaggerated the threat posed to her” when she stabbed McLaughlin twice. The wounds led to his lungs collapsing, and although he did make a full recovery, the injuries were serious.

“Exactly what happened at the vital moment is not possible to determine as each of the witnesses is less than wholly reliable,” the judge stated. He found that Seth Rivers gave the most reliable account of what had happened that night, although he noted that he displayed no interest in the matter by his continuous yawning during cross-examination.

Based on the various accounts that the victim was drunk, the judge concluded that Vega did not need to stab him. He added that had the defendant not used her knife the incident would have simply passed off without injury to anyone. He said Vega was also loud, angry and overreacted.

In his ruling, the judge said that although Vega had a previous conviction of cheque fraud, she had no previous convictions for violent offenses. In handing down his verdict however, he warned that an immediate custodial sentence was almost inevitable and that the 21-year-old defendant should begin preparation to serve her prison term.

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OT minister doesn’t want a pay rise

| 15/07/2013 | 3 Comments

CNS): Mark Simmonds, the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for the overseas territories, among other duties, does not think that UK members of parliament should receive pay increases. In response to the suggestion by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which proposed that MPs' salary should be raised to £74,000 in 2015 (an increase of 11%), Simmonds told the local newspaper in his constituency of Boston and Skegness that he doesn’t support the plan. The man who holds CIG’s purse strings at present said they should not get more money when the public sector is under such tight restraints.

Simmonds told The Boston Standard that he supports the issue of MPs' pay being handled by an independent body, which was established after the scandal of the extravagance of some MP’s expenses claims, but said he did not think it was appropriate for him and his parliamentary colleagues to get more cash.

“I do not think that MPs' pay should be going up while public sector pay is being constrained. 
“It is important that MPs don’t decide their own pay and the matter is referred to an independent body,” he said.

Simmonds, as parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Foreign Office, receives £97,000 a year in his pay packet but he also received £50,000 a year from Circle Health Care and payments as chair of Mortlock Simmonds Brown chartered surveyors.

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Travel policy planned for CIG

| 15/07/2013 | 50 Comments

(CNS): The government is planning to introduce a travel policy that will cover overseas trips for public servants as well as members of the Legislative Assembly. As a result of the controversies surrounding the travel bill racked up by the previous administration, since taking office more than eight weeks ago, ministers in the new administration, as well as civil servants, who have been travelling on government business have been flying economy or paying for their own upgrades. According to the deputy governor’s minutes of the most recent chief officers' meeting, once it is confirmed, the new policy, which will require justification for any travelling, will be made public.

In the minutes released by the governor’s office from the 10 June meeting, the civil service heads discussed the new policy, which is designed to implement service-wide standards for assessing whether travel is required, as well as managing expenditure on travel across the public sector.

“The policy will include a travel rate sheet which outlines the per diem amounts for travel and includes the need for a Business Case requiring the Department to justify any need to travel in order to effectively achieve their business objective, as opposed to using a travel alternative,” the minutes state. The policy will also set the class of travel that civil servants can access when travelling overseas.

With government struggling to balance the budget and the tax-payer picking up the ever-growing operational expenses of the CIG, the extravagant travel bills of some ministers in the last administration were a major source of contention for voters. A number of FOI requests by CNS and other media houses over the last four years revealed a significant amount of money was spent on trips that were, in some cases, far from vital to the business of government.

Having criticised the previous administration over the sums involved, Alden McLaughlin led by example when he took up the position of premier and was required to travel to the UK at the invitation of the UK prime minister. Taking the smallest delegation possible to London to deal with public finances and last month’s pre-G8 meeting, the public purse only paid for economy-plus tickets on the British Airways flight.

On his short trip to Miami last week to meet with the cruise lines and the cruise association, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell also travelled economy and did so again this weekend when he and Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden flew to Bermuda for the 2013 NatWest Island Games.

As well as supporting the 112 athletes attending from Cayman, the two mnisters are hoping to pick up some ideas to help boost the government’s plans for sports tourism, which is already taking shape with the advent of the CONCACAF U-15 football tournament next month. Kirkconnell said, in justification of the trip, that in addition to being able to support Cayman’s athletes, the games provided an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge about sports tourism working in a small island nation.

“Sports tourism can offer many opportunities, especially for island nations, to improve their tourism product. We will be seeing how Bermuda is using this opportunity,” he said adding that the goal is for Cayman to host the Island Games sometime in the future.

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Local man critical following water related incident

| 15/07/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 32-year-old man is currently in the Cayman Islands Hospital in a critical but stable condition following a water related incident at Rum Point in North Side on Sunday. Although details about what happened to the man have not yet been reported, an RCIPS spokesperson said that the police responded to a call at about 4:24pm on Sunday  that a man was in difficulties in the water off the popular beach area. Emergency crews found the man was still breathing but he was unresponsive. He was transported to the hospital in George Town by ambulance, where he is currently being treated.

The incident comes following a report of Cayman’s tenth water-related death on Friday since the beginning of the year after 73 year old James Klein of Erlanger, Kentucky, died as he was ascending to the surface during a dive off Little Cayman.

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ESO team updating household register

| 15/07/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Staff from the Economics and Statistics Office (ESO) have begun collecting information in communities across all districts in the Cayman Islands to update the Household Register. The team began the research field work on 8 July and will continue until the end of next month, collecting the necessary basic information. The Household Register is a list of all household addresses in the Cayman Islands and provides a sampling frame from which households are selected for surveys. It is usually updated prior to the annual Labour Force Survey. This year’s update is a partial one, in which only dwellings that were previously listed as of August 2012 as “under construction” or “vacant” will be visited.

New dwellings are also visited to determine if they have become occupied as households.

“ESO generally enjoys good cooperation from the community in our various household surveys, and we thank them anew in advance for their support this year,” said ESO Director Maria Zingapan.

ESO staff members can be identified through their IDs. She therefore advises that concerned community members should always ask for the field workers to present their IDs before providing key information.

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