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Mayors’ conference is delayed

A planned conference which is expected to bring hundreds of black mayors from around the world to Bermuda has been delayed.

The US-based Conference of Black Mayors (CBM) initially intended to hold its 40th annual convention, which is being hosted by the Corporation of Hamilton, at the start of October.

But organisers have revealed that the five-day summit will take place at the Fairmont Southampton Resort from November 12.

Hamilton Deputy Mayor Donal Smith did not explain why the conference — which has been mired in controversy — had been delayed.

But he did promise a full programme of panel discussions, and suggested that many US politicians, as well as mayors from China, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, would be attending.

In a press statement, Mr Smith said: “Currently we estimate that the City of Hamilton, Bermuda, will be greeting 400-500 plus delegates from as far away as Brazil, Colombia, China, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica and the Caribbean islands.

“We should note that the aim of this great gathering has always been to improve the quality of life in the cities, townships and villages these mayors and these officials represent.

“This year's convention theme will be ‘40 Forward' and we shall be looking ahead to determine what the future holds for the US and world economies.

“A very full programme will include panel discussions on important global issues including immigration, education, healthcare and the ways in which the spread of information technology will affect global trade and urban growth in the coming years.”

Mr Smith noted that many US politicians and their advisers, who are already looking ahead to the 2016 elections, would doubtless be planning to attend the Convention.

“We shall, as well, be inviting business leaders from the US, Europe and beyond to join us as featured speakers,” he said.

The statement also referred to the Bermuda convention as the CBM's 40th annual meeting.

However, earlier this year The Royal Gazette revealed that the organisation was set up just last year by Vanessa Williams, the disgraced former executive director of a separate organisation, the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM).

Ms Williams was fired by the NCBM last September after it was discovered that the organisation had run up debts of $2 million.

Ms Williams refused to cooperate with a financial audit of the NCBM, while bank records revealed she had spent more than $600,000 of NCBM funds on her own expenses in three years.

The NCBM is now under the control of a bankruptcy trust which has confirmed that any assets obtained by Ms Williams and her new group could be seized by the trust to pay off more than 100 NCBM creditors.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State website, Ms Williams incorporated the non-profit CBM “for charitable and educational purposes”, listing herself as president, CFO and CEO and stating that CBM “is not a membership organisation”.

Despite that claim, the Corporation has paid Ms Williams several thousand dollars to become a member of the CBM.

It has also paid Ms Williams $100,000 in “hosting fees” and has committed a further $250,000 to cover additional convention expenses, such as providing a welcoming reception and transport facilities for delegates.

Last week Mr Smith and Mayor Graeme Outerbridge once more brushed aside any concerns about the credibility of Ms Williams or the CBM.

Mr Smith, who is chairman of the convention's local organising committee, claimed the CBM had grown from modest beginnings into an event of considerable political and economic importance that now includes more than 2,000 African American mayors and municipal staff and has attracted the participation of politicians, business and financial leaders not only from the US but increasingly from around the world.

“Today the CBM also includes 39,000 political leaders and elected officials of colour from around the world,” he said.

Mayor Outerbridge added that the CBM represents “one of the most influential political and financial groups in the US and in many other countries around the world”.

“They represent a powerful voting block in the US and beyond and preside over millions of dollars of municipal funds and new development,” he said.

“As such, they represent enormous opportunities for our international business sector to pursue. We are delighted that the CBM has chosen to come to Bermuda.”

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Published June 30, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 30, 2014 at 12:20 am)

Mayors’ conference is delayed

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