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Group determined to take back HPWC

Marc Daniels, the Liquor Licensing Authority chairman

A community group of concerned former members of Hamilton Parish Workman’s Club is disappointed in the recent decision of the Liquor Licensing Authority to grant the club a continuance of its licence despite its belief that the institution is being operated illegally.

The basis of the assertion is founded on the existing executive having failed to hold an annual meeting for more than a decade, as mandated by the club’s own constitution.

Led by former club president Alan Smith, who was vociferous in his denouncement of an executive that comprises president Wade Simons, vice-president Ernest Lathan and secretary/treasurer Nigel Burgess, the community group has labelled the administration a rogue unit that should be considered invalid.

The group believes an interim committee should be installed to ensure that elections are held and that there is proper office establishment.

“What was brought to bear during the recent hearings before the LLA is that protocol and proper ethical procedure have been abandoned by the current leadership, if one can call them such,” read an internal letter from Mr Smith, a copy of which was delivered for consideration to Randy Scott, the Registrar of Companies.

“As such, it is my opinion that they are in fact operating as a rogue, unelected executive body and by these facts alone should be precluded from obtaining a liquor licence until should protocols are fulfilled — meaning that a special general meeting with an election of officers is held.”

The group has prepared for renewed membership, with an established escrow account of $5,000 held for payment of membership fees for each, but claims to have been rebuffed by the existing management since first approaching via hand-delivered letter last December.

“The level of negligence and outright arrogance having been and yet being expressed by the current administration is outrageous and must be urgently curtailed as the club continues to deteriorate under their mismanagement,” Mr Smith said.

He charged also that a rise in antisocial behaviour, which has included the murder of Perry Puckerin Jr in January 2010, another shooting incident inside the club in August 2016 and an allegation of squatters occupying an area on the second floor, can be laid at the doorstep of the existing executive.

Mr Smith added: “Since January when we began this process of removal, we have the ability to clean up, not only our yard, our club and our beloved Hamilton Parish, which can only be for the positive prospect of the whole of Bermuda by extension and osmosis, but we will have a place for one and all to gather and participate in this journey without fear or foreboding.”

However, Mr Burgess has maintained his stance that the group of former members has no rights to dictate club affairs until they become members.

“Until they pay their dues, they are the same as someone coming in off the street,” he said. “They need to join, and then we can talk.”

Mr Burgess added that Mr Smith had had no knowledge of the club’s financial affairs since his resignation in 2008.

“I can assure you, it is in a much better position than when he left several years ago,” he said. “Also, with most of them having no physical presence at the club, they would be unaware of the atmosphere there.”

The club’s liquor-licence application was adjourned three times for further inquiries, with new LLA chairman Marc Daniels critical of its internal affairs before conditionally awarding the licence.

“During the resumed hearing of the Liquor Licensing Authority, the LLA chairman at once advised the HPWC executive members to make every effort to sort out the club’s internal matters,” Mr Smith stated in the letter. “The LLA also searched through all HPWC files on offer and came to the recognition that the club had not had an annual general meeting since at least November 2007 and, moreover, it was during that meeting that I, Alan Smith, was voted in as president on an interim basis, with Corey Hill as vice-president, Takia Burgess secretary, Alvin Baker as the assistant secretary and David Lovell as treasurer.

“So it would stand to reason that there has been no legitimate AGM on record since 2007, which brings to bear the question as to exactly how the current executive membership attained their positions, based on their inability to demonstrably show documentation of their being voted in, in accordance with the standing orders of the club’s constitution.”

The group has proposed that, until a new executive can be elected in accordance with club law and run in the philosophy of its creation, Philip Burgess take over as president, backed by Shervin Burgess as vice-president, Nandi Outerbridge as secretary, Asha Jones as treasurer and Kyjuan Smith as assistant secretary.

Patrick Bean is a freelance journalist who represents Writer’s Block PMB