Municipalities Bill Passes In House Of Assembly

July 13, 2015

Following hours of debate, the Municipalities Amendment [No. 2] Act 2015 was passed in the House on Friday [July 10], with the Bill amending the Municipalities Act 1923 to “provide for greater supervision of the Corporations.”

The Bill [PDF] requires the Corporations to get the approval of the Minister for any resolution or municipal ordinances and allows the Minister to issue binding Ministerial directions to a Corporation.

Parliamentarians discussed the matter for hours, with the parties divided, and the Bill passed by a margin of 18-16, with all OBA MPs present voting in favour and all PLP MPs present voting against.

The Bill follows after the contents of Michael MacLean’s affidavit became public, with Mr MacLean making allegations surrounding his discussions about the waterfront development contract.

He signed the contract with the Corporation of Hamilton, it was later overturned by a vote in Parliament, and Mr MacLean launched legal action seeking some $90 million in compensation, making a number of allegations of improper conduct in an affidavit.

MPs that spoke on the Bill included the OBA’s Minister Bob Richards, Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, and Sylvan Richards; as well as the PLP’s Walton Brown, Glenn Blakeney, Zane DeSilva, Wayne Furbert, Jamahl Simmons, Lawrence Scott, Derrick Burgess, Michael Scott, Rolfe Commissiong and David Burt.

Opposition Leader Marc Bean spoke earlier in the session, calling the legislation “inextricably linked to the recent and longstanding allegations of corruption and bribery in terms of the waterfront and JetGate.”

Saying the Bill will only allow the Corporations to do things if the Government approves, Walton Brown [PLP] said, “If we pass this Act, we will be making a mockery of democracy. Because we will create a sham of structure.

“We will have members elected to the Corporation of Hamilton and St. George’s through a process which involves expenditure of public funds. They will sit and deliberate, but their decisions will never be valid unless, and until, it has the approval of the Government. So why really have the Corporation? Why have it..if their decisions are not their own?

Saying that people will “be elected and hold office, but be completely neutered when it comes to the possession of any power to do anything,” Mr Brown said “it renders the time, the effort of the Corporation of Hamilton and St. George’s completely useless.”

Speaking about Marc Bean’s comments, Minister Bob Richards [OBA] said: “He accused us of engaging in practices that gave, quote, ‘the potential appearance of corruption.’

“Let’s look those words potential appearance, quite frankly when I thought of it how ridiculous can you get. The potential appearance…. if pigs had wings they would have the potential appearance of a Boeing 737.”

Minister Patricia Gordon Pamplin [OBA] said, “This administration has seen things, based on the recommendations and the findings of the Ombudsman, with respect to maladministration of the Corporation of Hamilton which says something need to happen. We need to fix this because it’s not right.

“The honourable member who just took his seat, my honourable colleague the Finance Minister, indicated the extent to which failure to have effective administrative oversight can damage the economy.

“As we’ve heard, the Corporation of Hamilton is the nerve centre of our economy. It is the place to which most companies gravitate. Very few corporations that are established, establish outside of the City of Hamilton. There are tremendous assets that are owned by the Corporation of Hamilton.”

Glenn Blakeney [PLP] said, “No one in this country — on either side of the political divide — expected, anticipated or wished for the One Bermuda Alliance to be embroiled in the kind of nefarious controversies that are alleged to have gone on at the last two and a half plus years, where it has been more damage control in this Government than any other Government that preceded them.

“Which has in fact impeded the progress they continue to talk about. Because the kinds of things, based on the decisions and policies that have been implemented, have all been controversial..the big ticket items for the most part.

“It is baffling, the allegations of corruption that involves individuals dealing on behalf of the Government with the Corporation, with international investors etc… where we, as a result of the first domino to fall, had a Premier for the very first time in this country resign in disgrace.”

Next to speak was Zane DeSilva [PLP], who said, “”I keep going back to their words…good governance. We need good governance at the city, what about the good governance at the Cabinet table? The same people, that in this Bill, they are talking about giving responsibility to. They are giving responsibility to that Minister that is the heart of these allegations.”

Minister Dr Grant Gibbons [OBA] interjected with a point of order, saying “The honourable member is impugning improper integrity. He has been skating very close to the wind.”

Mr DeSilva continued, “I know Mr. Speaker, when you get close to home, and you start hitting that nerve. I understand. But when you talk about good governance….you know I talked about the airport, we had WallGate, we had JetGate, which are all tied into these same people.”

“We had a Chairman of their party resign because he was told not to investigate…guess who….this same Minister! Every time you turn around that same Minister seems to pop his head up. Every time there’s some controversy, every time there is some…that ‘c-word’ keeps coming up…and he is following right behind.”

Wayne Furbert [PLP] said, “It seems that whatever OBA does, no one makes any noise. They can borrow as much money they want, no one makes any noise. They can come up with past Bills, no one makes any noise.

“That’s why there is no check and balances within that group. So they are not checkmating the Minister, they don’t have members checkmating making them, the backbench is not checkmating them, and hence why we have total distrust in the Government right now.”

Jamahl Simmons [PLP] said, “We are here today to clean up the mess created by Steven DeCosta. We are here today to clean up the mess created by the Minister from another place, who sits in another space, ‘The Joker.’

“We are here to clean up a mess that should never have happened. As my honourable colleague who just took his seat says, when we look at the circumstances surrounding the initial Municipalities Act 2013, every single one of us, regardless of our political affiliation, regardless of our race, regardless of our economic standing, should be very concerned that we are not getting the full picture of what is happening.”

“We are placing power in the hands of a Minister in a Westminster system that we are seeing breaking down under the One Bermuda Alliance.

“What do I mean by that? We had a Ministerial Code of Conduct that governs behaviour. Violations of the Ministerial Code of Conduct should result in resignations, either from main Cabinet or from the House all together.

“We are now expected to put power in the hands of a Minister from a Cabinet that has shown an unwillingness to enforce the Ministerial Code of Conduct, that at one point claimed there was no Ministerial Code of Conduct.”

Speaking next was Lawrence Scott [PLP], who said, “There is a Bill in front of us that basically means the Municipalities Act [No.2] 2015 gives one man absolute power.”

Dr Gibbons interrupted with a point of order, saying: “The honourable member is patently misleading the House. This Bill does nothing of the sort, does not give one man absolute power. It’s ridiculous.”

Mr Scott continued, saying, “For those have not read this Bill, when you have one person that can appoint whoever they want, whenever they want, however they want, according to their checks and balances, according to their checklist, how they feel is necessary…that is, in my opinion, absolute power.”

“With the allegations that are out there,” added Mr Scott. “We cannot allow for laws and legislation to be brought to the House that is even seemingly tainted.”

Saying it’s “taking us back at least 70 years,” Derrick Burgess [PLP] said, “We shouldn’t be here today, passing a bill…that will give an unelected person power over people that were elected by the people. That is not right.

“The Mayor should be in charge of their Municipality, whether it be Hamilton or St. George’s. And if you have problems, and everybody knows there is some problems in Hamilton, then you fix that.”

Saying there are “some serious allegations out there backed up by tapes filed before the Courts,” Mr Burgess suggested the Bill be paused to make sure the Government gets things right.

Commenting that the bill is “odious for a number of reasons,” Michael Scott [PLP] said, “The Leader in the Opposition when he stood earlier this morning, he foreshadowed why the Bill is one that brings concern. Because the Minister from the other place is a central power player in this Bill.”

“It is quite inappropriate and odious to bring it. It’s sticking the finger of the Government right in the sore of very serious allegations,” added Mr Scott.

Saying this is “turning into a right mess,” Rolfe Commissiong [PLP] said, “And I guess it happens when you compromise your principles, or perhaps they don’t have an overarching principle of governance or distinct ideology besides governing far behind of their unenlightened self interests, because certainly this Bill and various others reflect that.”

David Burt [PLP] said, “Even today when we find out that the original approval that led to the car park being taken over was part of this very large plot to allegedly extort the developer, the OBA, in what can only be sticking up a middle finger to the electorate, is saying we are going to bring this today. To hell with the allegations.”

Mr Burt said they are “clearing up a mess made by Stephen DeCosta and the collective responsibility of the OBA Cabinet,” adding that we now have “countless legal bills” over the waterfront matter while we are are cancelling programs for children.

Sylvan Richards [OBA] spoke next, noting that Opposition Leader earlier said the Opposition would not participate in the debate, and said it seems “nobody listened to him” and asked “who is really calling the shots over that side.”

Referencing Mr MacLean’s affidavit, Mr Richards said: “An affidavit….anyone can say anything. I could make an affidavit, and say I saw a spaceship, it landed down on Front Street and green men came out and they were dancing to soca.”

The full Municipalities Amendment [No. 2] Act 2015 follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (16)

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  1. watching says:

    This government has no conscience and no shame. Pure insanity.

    When the PLP had concerns about the CoH a certain segment of Bermuda marched on parliament and called our leaders every name in the book. Now these same marchers are quiet as mice while their leaders do whatever they want to simply based on a majority in the House.

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    • Thats how U.B.P ran it for years.
      And the two Somerset sellouts make it harder.

    • jt says:

      Precious.

    • aceboy says:

      The PLP’s concerns were that white business votes made a white mayor a shoe-in. The OBA’s concerns are that the absolute disaster that was Team Hamilton doesn’t happen again after the vote was removed from the business owners and wholesale shenanigans became the norm at City Hall.

  2. hmmm says:

    Wasn’t Rolfe around CITY HALL at that election night that led to this mess at the COH? SMDH

  3. Vote for Me says:

    1200 votes, 1 Mayor, 8 Councilors but 1 appointed Minister gets to make all final decisions!!

    MPs Bascome and Outerbridge. What do you have to say?

    • watching says:

      Bascome and Outerbridge have no voice and couldn’t care less.

    • Lennie says:

      Need I remind you that the PLP had an appointed minister…Col. David Burch. He held the same position as Fahy does now….so your point is???

      • J Starling says:

        The point is the legislation, up until now, did not allow the Minister to implement direct rule over the municipalities on the subjective ‘belief’ of the Minister in question.

  4. aceboy says:

    LOL

    It is so totally hilarious that the PLP got their “guys” into the Mayor’s office and as predicted they turned the whole office into a shambles. Missing money, demands for salary when none had ever been paid, giving away at least one hundred thousand dollars for a conference that never took place, granting of their friend a 262 year lease for the Waterfront etc etc etc…..and now they try and pin the fiasco on to the OBA, who are trying to prevent the Team Hamilton disaster from being repeated.

    • Unbelievable says:

      Co-sign.

    • No-one could have said it any clearer, “aceboy”! Now let us see / hear more about them that need to be taken in for “misappropriated funds”

  5. Just a matter of time says:

    Ah yes. Anything bad = PLP. Anything good = UBP/OBA. We live in a particularly unique political era where the OBA can do anything now and do no wrong so long as they continue to shout how bad the PLP was with the debt, etc. Based on the anecdotes of my elders and reading our history, it feels like we are back in the pre-party politics era where what the Govt says goes no matter what. And of course the COH back then operated ‘perfectly’. Very dangerous times indeed.

    • There is a vast difference between “then” and “now”. But of course, you may be too young to recall…or is it bias?
      We have more of a “mixed” party today than there has ever been. So tell us who’s more racially divided, the One Bermuda Alliance or the Progressive Labour Party?

  6. The Truth and Nothing but the Truth says:

    Never have the PLP been so desperate , out of touch with fact, unprofessional, and simply outclassed !!