House: Public to pay for libel action
News that the Bermuda Government would foot the bill for a defamation action taken by Bob Richards has been greeted with raised eyebrows by Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess.
Mr Richards, the Minister of Finance, told Parliament yesterday that his suit against Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, entailed allegations made against him while carrying out his duties.
The minister added that Cabinet had concluded that funding this civil action to be a government purpose.
“That was the same thing that the PLP Cabinet and Government agreed to, and the Auditor-General came out with a report calling it a misuse of public funds,” said Mr Burgess.
He recalled the 2010 hiring of a lawyer by himself and former Premier Ewart Brown for a suit against Canadian architects who they accused of creating false cheques to tarnish their names.
Mr Burgess said he had provided documents to the Public Accounts Committee stating that any proceeds from the case would go to the Government.
“The only reason that it came under our names was that in Canada you cannot have a defamation case in just the Government’s name,” Mr Burgess said.
Ultimately, Dr Brown and Mr Burgess had to carry on the case by themselves, and Mr Burgess was unable to afford continuing it.
Mr Richards defended the use of taxpayer funds to pursue the case but also told MPs that no payments had been made so far.
Lawyer Saul Froomkin represented the Government in the action, the minister said, telling MPs that “any payments made would be fully transparent and documented”.