Pastor Bean denounces ‘spirit of entitlement’ to use island

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CARTEL founder Leroy Bean has insisted that the 21-year less one day rent-free lease he negotiated with Government for the use of White’s Island was above board and he did not manipulate the system.

And he denounced a “spirit of entitlement” held by “certain groups of people” over the use of White’s Island.

In an interview with The Royal Gazette he said he was forced to charge fees to another charity — the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association — for the use of White’s Island because of maintenance and other costs.

Eyebrows have been raised over the charges and also by the fact that the anti-gang organisation’s rent-free lease is for one day shy of 21 years, which means it did not have to be approved by Cabinet or parliament. But Mr Bean said that the “21 years less a day lease” is common.

“It’s not unusual. There are many people who have a 21 years less a day lease. I know I am definitely not the only one. It’s a very common lease.”

That statement could not be immediately verified. The Estates Ministry was asked about the prevalence of such leases but did not respond by press time last night.

Rees Fletcher, chairman of the board of trustees of Outward Bound Bermuda, which has had the use of the western end of Paget Island for about three decades, said that the organisation had signed its first formal lease in 2009. That, he said, was a five-year lease and the outdoor educational organisation was only paying a “nominal amount”.

Mr Fletcher added that Outward Bound had wanted a longer lease so it could invest in making improvements in the buildings it occupied, but it was opposed by the Parks Department.

“That [the 21-year less a day lease] is the longest lease you can give without going to parliament,” Mr Bean continued. “But I have nothing to do with that there. It was a lease that was done. When I negotiated the lease, I asked for the longest lease possible and they gave me the longest lease possible.”

When asked, Mr Bean said that had he been offered a longer lease on condition it was approved by parliament he would have accepted.

“I don’t go around trying to circumvent the system. In other words I don’t try to run to Ministers. We deal with things through the right channels,” Mr Bean said.

He added that he did not negotiate with the Public Works Minister and that all discussions were with the Permanent Secretary.

“And, as a matter of fact, I’m incensed when people are making allegations that I am practicing anything underhanded, trying to circumvent any system, or involved in any corrupt behaviour.”

He continued: “If people really want to be honest, a certain group of people have had the island for so long that they have the spirit of entitlement.”

Asked what he meant by that he said: “There are people that have almost taken ownership of White’s Island and they believe that it’s not for Bermuda at large. I think that statement is quite clear.

“White’s Island is for all Bermudians — both black, white or other.”

Tim Petty, president of BASA, which has had an association with White’s Island for about two decades declined to comment.

Mr Bean dismissed Opposition MP Mark Pettingill’s criticism that charging another charity was “unbecoming” as “political rhetoric.”

“We’re not a charity, we are a trust, and according to our purposes we have rights to do business as long as it enhances the purposes for which it was established,” he said.

“And I think that the OBA, or Mr Pettingill, is trying to get brownie points for the next election.”

Mr Bean added: “Both OBA and PLP need to recognise that the plight that we are having with gang violence cannot be political. Lives are being lost, families are being affected. We need to stop the political games and spin when it comes to getting our Island together and putting it back on the right track.”

Responding to criticism that he charged BASA, a charity, fees for the use of the island, Mr Bean said that a number of groups, including the Bermuda Rowing Association, use the Island and he had incurred a “large electricity bill” last year.

He said maintenance costs included repairing and replacing pumps.

“This is what we have to do on a continuous basis. We have to keep the island up. We incurred a very large electricity bill,” he said.

“I’m not blaming the Rowing Association but, whether we get it free or not, there are costs to keep up the island.”

He said that his organisation did not receive any financial assistance from Government.

“Everything is out of our own pockets.”

Bermuda Rowing Association president Michael Swain explained that his volunteer-supported organisation also does not receive any funding from Government, and its use of White’s Island imposed a low-cost burden.

“We basically occupy one shed with two light bulbs in it,” Mr Swain said.

“We wash our boats down by dipping buckets in the water tanks because the pumps and the hoses have not worked in many months.”

Mr Swain added that the island had a rat problem recently and his organisation paid to clear it up.

Mr Bean explained that CARTEL negotiated the arrangement with the BASA with national swim coach Ben Smith, and that a civil servant with the Estates Ministry had recommended a licencing agreement.

“It was in our remit to do a sublease or a license,” he said. “We did that, gave it to him and asked if there was anything he didn’t agree with to please let us know and that we were open and flexible to adjust things accordingly.”

Mr Smith looked over the draft, and signed it, Mr Bean said.

He said he had not met BASA’s president Tim Petty. “I’ve never met them and I don’t even know what they look like. None of them ever talked to me so I was surprised and shocked when I read this in the papers based on our conversation with Ben Smith,” he said.

And Mr Bean confirmed reports that he charges BASA $10 per child per week to use White’s Island.

“BASA charges $125 a week for each child that goes to their swimming camp and they also get a $25,000 grant,” he said.

“The children normally go into the water three or four times a day. Every time they come out of the water the instructors shower them off so the pumps are constantly going. So this was the reason — to offset some of the costs.”

He said: “I did not have any problem with them using White’s Island, I just wanted to work with them on the logistics so everything could run smoothly.

“I am dumbfounded they could even do a story like that when Ben Smith said they wanted to build a long-term relationship. That doesn’t help a relationship.”

And Mr Bean declined, when asked, to share the lease with this newspaper.

“I’m not going to release my lease to The Royal Gazette.” Government last night promised it would respond to this story later today.

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Published Aug 8, 2012 at 8:10 am (Updated Aug 8, 2012 at 8:10 am)

Pastor Bean denounces ‘spirit of entitlement’ to use island

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