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RA chief executive paid $220,000 on departure

Tabled reports: Walter Roban

A former chief executive of the island’s electricity and telecoms watchdog was paid a year’s salary as an employment settlement after he left the organisation.

The payment — thought to have been at least $220,000 — was made to Matthew Copeland, who led the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda for less than two years and left in February 2018.

Mr Copeland was one of three people who held the chief executive post for less than two years between 2012 and 2018.

A request by The Royal Gazette under public access to information asked for details about employment settlements since the RAB was formed in the wake of the 2011 Regulatory Authority Act.

The request asked for details including the names of individuals, the dates and reasons for settlements, and their terms.

The RA said that one record matched the request.

The Pati response said: “The authority can confirm that the relevant employee was a chief executive of the authority and served from March 1, 2016 to February 16, 2018.

“The relevant employee was paid one year’s salary as an employment settlement.

“The date of the settlement agreement was March 1, 2018.”

The authority said no further information would be provided and highlighted exemptions under the Pati legislation that included the disclosure of personal information about individuals and a breaches of confidentiality.

It added that releasing the details “would have a significant adverse effect on the performance by the public authority of any of its functions relating to management, including industrial relations and management of its staff”, which meant it was not required to provide the information.

Mr Copeland was appointed chief executive of the RAB at the start of March 2016 and stepped down in February 2018.

Angela Berry, the authority’s chairwoman, said at the time that the reason for his departure was a personal matter.

She added: “We have parted on good terms.”

Ms Berry said: “The commissioners will use this opportunity to consider the future strategy and direction of the Regulatory Authority to ensure we are in a strong position to move forward.”

Financial statements for three years of RAB operations were tabled in Parliament this month.

The 2016-17 annual statement — the most recent available — showed that the chief executive, which would have been Mr Copeland, was paid $227,302 plus a $15,000 housing allowance.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, told the House of Assembly when he tabled the reports that the authority was a self-funding body and “although it is independent, it must account for its activities and expenditures”.

He said: “The RAB conducts all its activities under the watchful eye of the public, a public that demands quality of services from its utilities and that requires constant vigilance from its regulator.”

The RA’s proposed budget of almost $6.3 million for 2019-20 was approved by Wayne Furbert as acting finance minister in March.

Its work plan for the year explained that the authority gets no government funding and its income is generated by the collection of fees from electricity consumers and power firms, including Belco and the Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility.

Fees are also collected from communications industry licence-holders and, although restrictions apply on whether these can be passed on to the customer through a specific charge, the levies were understood to be a factor in companies’ overall pricing.

Mr Roban said earlier this month that the authority also collected revenue for the Government that totalled more than $36.5 million in financial years 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17

The authority’s first chief executive, Philip Micallef, was appointed in October 2012 and the RAB started operations in January 2013.

Mr Micallef left in September 2014 for personal reasons.

Robert Watson took over the role in January 2015, but left nine months later, also for personal reasons.

Kyle Masters, then a legal adviser to the RA, became interim chief executive, as he also did between the two previous incumbents.

Mr Copeland was appointed in March 2016 and stepped down in February 2018, when Aaron Smith took the role on an acting basis.

Mr Smith launched a civil suit against the authority this year for $74,404 in compensation after his $250,000 contract was cut short.

Lawyers claimed his agreement with the RAB was terminated last October, more than three months early.

The authority announced its fourth chief executive, Denton Williams, in January, three months after he resigned as chief operating officer at Ascendant Group, the parent company of Belco.

The RA Board of Commissioners appoints chief executives to serve for three years, but they can be reappointed for one or more terms under the Regulatory Authority legislation.