Bermuda Real has obtained a copy of an internal email to staff at the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) from BTA CEO Kevin Dallas, who reportedly refuted claims by The Royal Gazette, suggesting that recent legislation tabled by the Minister of Tourism, Jamahl Simmons, places him in a position to threaten their independence.
In a report published by this website last week, Minister Simmons stated at a news conference convened by the Premier, that “the tail will not wag the dog in this Government”.
His comments came hard on the heels of the resignation of outgoing Gaming Commission Chairman Alan Dunch, whose resignation takes effect on December 6th.
Speaking to the media to announce the appointment of his successor, former Magistrate Cheryl-Ann Mapp as the new Commission Chairwoman, Mr Simmons also stated that independent entities funded by taxpayer money, will be held accountable in a “mutually respectful relationship” with the Government.
“We are providing funding for these entities and while we will respect their independence, which should be based on their expertise in their respective fields, there has to be a measure of policy direction when and if necessary,” he said.
Premier David Burt, added that his Cabinet fully backed Ms Mapp’s appointment and the Government’s approach to casino gaming in Bermuda.
The letter, obtained by Bermuda Real, was sent to BTA staff by the CEO, on the same day the daily newspaper article was published.
The letter states: “You may have seen, or been asked about, comments attributed to Minister Simmons in today’s Royal Gazette.
“The story in question is actually about the appointment of a new Chair for the Gaming Commission, but the way in which the story was presented has created an interesting sideshow about the BTA.
“The Minister’s comments are taken out of context, and the reporting doesn’t match the spirit of what was actually said.
“The Minister’s prepared statement actually makes no mention of us. In questioning afterwards by Sam Strangeways he was asked about the BTA as the other obvious example of what she called ‘fixed term board appointments’.
“Minister Simmons replied that the BTA board had already had a change leadership that he felt appropriate given the change of Government, and that he and the BTA ‘enjoy mutually respectful relationship based on trust’.
“When pushed further he said that – in the hypothetical situation where Govt [sic[ and BTA did not work as partners – ‘you could reasonably expect’ that he would look to a legislative remedy.
“In order to be effective, the BTA *has* [sic] to be a good partner to all our stakeholders, including Government and the Opposition. The Tourism Investment Act 2017 is a great example of the positive power of our model, and the good working relationship we have with the Ministry. I have every reason to think that cooperation will continue!
“If anyone has any questions, I’m more than happy to talk about it.”
The email is signed by ‘K’.
The newspaper article published last week headlined ‘Critics call Simmons over casino plan’, quotes sources both here and abroad, mostly all with no names published with their comments, on the Minister’s “plan to bring the island’s casino regulatory body under ministerial control” through the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017.
The new Bill , which empowers the Minister to fire Gaming Commission members, is due for debate in the House of Assembly in December.
The Premier also stated that it was not true to say government was stripping the commission’s independent status. He also cited the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) as an example.
“As the Minister of Finance, I have the ability to give directions to the Bermuda Monetary Authority, but no one is saying that the BMA is not independent,” he said. His comments were echoed by the Minister of Tourism.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, a BTA spokesman would neither confirm or deny the contents of the CEO’s leaked document. His response was simply two words: “No comment.”
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