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Curtis Richardson quits Senate over $19,000 back rent owed to elderly woman

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Curtis Richardson (File photograph)

A controversial senator tonight quit the Upper House after a court case over $19,000 unpaid rent to an elderly woman.

Curtis Richardson resigned after a growing storm of criticism of his position after his former landlady Margaret Harvey gave evidence in court about the long legal battle to get the money owed to her.

David Burt, the Premier, confirmed the resignation and said: “Let me first say that I truly feel for the Harveys as senior citizens, people who have worked hard and simply seek what they are owed – just as I feel for many landlords who have had similar experiences.

“The pandemic has impacted families across the island and the experiences of some of our seniors during these times are heart-wrenching and make our work in growing this economy even more important.”

Mr Burt was made aware of Mr Richardson’s debt before he elevated him to the Senate and made the taxi driver the junior minister for national security, a brief that covers law and order, and health.

Mr Burt added that Mr Richardson was the father of two young children and who “like many, has fallen on difficult times”

Mr Burt admitted: “Upon Curtis' appointment, I was aware of the debt and gave instructions that it must be addressed.

“However, the fact remains that this ordeal has been trying for all involved, especially for the Harvey family and I have accepted Curtis’ decision to resign from the Senate and as a junior minister.”

Mr Richardson will vacate his Senate seat at the end of the month and a replacement is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Mr Burt said: “Curtis offered himself to public service and that service often includes greater public scrutiny and standards of accountability.

We must understand that many people in this country are hurting, often in silence, displaying little of what they are truly enduring.

“We must work together as a community, with more compassion and less condemnation, if we are to get through what will be a challenging year.”

Mr Richardson said last night in an open letter to Bermuda that he had resigned because the controversy had become a distraction from the work of the Government - and promised to come to an arrangement with Ms Harvey.

He added: “I continue to apologise to those to whom I am in arrears for the strain that this debt has placed on their business and their personal finances.

“I will continue to be as transparent as possible and communicate as much as I can to ensure that these debts, accumulated due to my inability to work, will all be paid off in full. I will also continue to pay what I can with all that I am able to earn when I am able to make payments.”

The news came after a prominent pastor delivered a denunciation of Mr Richardson, who failed to pay $19,000 in rent to an elderly woman.

The Reverend Nicholas Tweed, of St Paul AME in Hamilton, attacked “moral bankruptcy” in Parliament.

Mr Tweed, who Mr Burt has previously said was his pastor, compared Mr Richardson to Judas and accused him of “intimidating” a senior citizen.

He added Mr Burt and all the other Progressive Labour Party MPs were hiding behind the courts and had failed to show leadership.

Ms Harvey, who is in her 70s, said she has become sick and her hair had fallen out because of the stress of the legal battle to recover the cash.

Mr Tweed said: “The Bible also teaches us to who much is given much is required.

“So, when we see individuals who have been given much, appointed to the Senate, serving at the pleasure of those whom we have trusted to provide leadership, when we see them abusing their position by intimidating seniors and having them believe that they have to be silent in the face of abuse because of the political affiliation of the individual and the immunity they think that brings them.

“I’m not concerned about the judicial side – that will work itself out.

“But, the thing that I find disturbing is when you have 30 people in the House of Assembly and every single one of them seek political cover behind a judicial veil when the issue is a moral issue.

Nicholas Tweed (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

“The issue has nothing to do with what the court will and won’t do – it’s a moral issue.

“And when we cover it over it reflects a level of moral bankruptcy.

“How then can anybody claim to protect and respect the vulnerable and allow persons to occupy places at the pleasure – it’s not even as if they were elected anywhere.”

In an apparent reference to Rolfe Commissiong, a former PLP MP, Mr Tweed said: “Now, forgive me for having a memory, but I seem to remember, not too long ago a particular senatorial appointment was withdrawn over allegations that were not proven in public.

“But, now the political communication is, ‘well we have got to wait and see what the court says’.

“The court is not engaged in moral judgment – they engage in legal judgment.

“How do we lead our people if our moral compass is broken? And that is troubling.

“The irony of it is that image if we sought to go back in time and imagine if that was an OBA senator?

“What I do care about, for it is my responsibility, is moral leadership.

“So, I’m praying that, maybe, behind closed doors in dark rooms that there’s somebody with the moral courage to do the right thing.

“Because morality is not for sale.

“Even Judas gave back the 30 pieces of silver that he got for betraying Jesus.

“These double standards become nothing more than practised hypocrisy.

“Pray for this family.”

Mr Tweed said some politicians saw “the only problem that we have is that it got out to the public – it’s not the moral wrong doing.

“Enough is enough.”

Mr Richardson, who earns more than $30,000 a year for his senate role, failed to make monthly payments of $325 a month ordered by Magistrates’ Court.

E-mails between the Harvey family and Marc Telemaque, the Cabinet Secretary, showed that Mr Burt was informed about the situation before he sent Mr Richardson to the Senate in October 2020.

Mr Richardson is no longer the junior health minister, but remains in the national security post, as well as being the PLP’s Senate spokesperson on transport.

It was revealed in court that Mr Richardson has only paid $1,400 of the cash owed and that Financial Assistance had made monthly payments of $1,163 for him in September, October, and November 2020.

Mr Richardson was given a notice to quit the property owned by Ms Harvey on March 31, 2020, but did not vacate the premises until the next year.

Ms Harvey’s daughter, Margot Harvey, said the family contacted the Premier’s office on two occasions, in May and September, 2020.

Dr Harvey also questioned why an arrest warrant reissued when Mr Richardson failed to appear in Magistrate’s Court as scheduled on December 3 last year was not acted upon.

Mr Richardson told the Supreme Court he had not turned up in court on December 3 because he was told the appearance had been cancelled because of his appeal to the higher court.

The senator will have his ability to pay assessed in Magistrates’ Court to determine how much he will be able to put towards his debt to Ms Harvey.

The Government earlier failed to respond to several requests for comment from The Royal Gazette.

To read Mr Richardson’s letter in full, see “related media”.

:•It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.