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Premier rebuked for ‘losing his tongue’ over disgraced senator

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David Burt, the Premier (file photograph)

David Burt, the Premier, must give a full statement to Parliament explaining why he appointed disgraced Senator Curtis Richardson to the Upper House despite being warned of his mounting rent arrears to a frail elderly woman, the Opposition insisted.

The One Bermuda Alliance’s Michael Dunkley rebuked the Premier for “losing his tongue” over the scandal which resulted in landlady Margaret Harvey, who is in her seventies, breaking down in tears at the Supreme Court as she told of the health toll Mr Richardson’s $19,000 unpaid debt had placed on her.

The Premier’s office has repeatedly refused to answer questions put to the head of Government by The Royal Gazette regarding the scandal over the past seven days - despite the Harvey family insisting Mr Burt must come clean regarding the situation.

Controversy swirls around the Premier after The Royal Gazette revealed the Harvey family warned him of Mr Richardson’s debts just weeks before Mr Burt appointed him to the Senate and other high offices of state.

Mr Dunkley said the Premier needs to be frank with the House of Assembly when it resumes next week and lay out all the details of the affair and finally give the answers the Harvey family have demanded of him regarding the controversy.

The former OBA premier said: “Mr Burt has to address these questions - we are meant to live in a transparent and accountable world.

“When I was premier he was always demanding accountability - now he seems to have lost his tongue.”

Michael Dunkley, OBA former Premier.

Noting that Mr Richardson is a taxi driver, Mr Dunkley said: “This man was put in the Senate at the Premier’s wish and now he must explain why.

“He owes that to an elderly lady who was owed money by this man when the Premier appointed him to the Senate.

“The Premier needs to answer all the questions - he should make a statement in the House when it returns on February 4.

“The track record of the Premier points to a clear lack of judgement when making appointments.”

Mr Dunkley said the ongoing affair is distracting from other areas of Government during the pandemic and economic fall-out from Coronavirus.

He said: “He needs to draw a line under this. It is too much of a distraction. He needs to explain himself, and the landlady needs to be taken care of.”

Curtis Richardson Senator in Court (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ms Harvey told the Supreme Court that the trauma caused by the long running legal battle resulting from Mr Richardson’s repeated failure to pay the money owed had caused her hair to fall out as she became sick.

Mr Richardson said he would quit the Senate and his junior Ministerial post at National Security at the end of the month following a fiery denunciation of his behaviour by the Reverend Nicholas Tweed at St Paul AME Church in Hamilton last Sunday.

Mr Tweed accused the Premier and his fellow 29 Progressive Labour Party MPs of a failure of moral leadership over the issue.

The churchman also accused Mr Richardson of “intimidating” a senior citizen in the way he handled the situation.

Mr Richardson was given a notice to quite the $2,500 a month double bed, double bathroom Bermuda Cottage property by March 31, 2020, but did not leave until January 31, 2021.

In that period he paid Ms Harvey only $1,400, while the Department of Financial Assistance paid the family $1,163 per month for September, October and November of 2020.

The Harvey family contacted the Premier through Major Marc Telemaque, the Cabinet Secretary, in May 2020, and in September that year to alert him to the rent arrears row.

But, just weeks after the second e-mail, Mr Burt appointed Mr Richardson to the Senate and junior ministerial posts for health and national security for which he received more than $30,000 a year from taxpayers.

Major Telemaque replied to the family’s first e-mail saying it was a private matter.

After the family began legal action, Major Telemaque told the family via e-mail in September: “I’m sorry this is not resolved. I have made the Premier aware and I expect he will address the matter directly with Mr Richardson in his capacity as party leader.”

Mr Burt then elevated Mr Richardson to the Upper House and Ministerial posts the following month.

Announcing Mr Richardson’s resignation on Monday, the Premier said: “Upon Curtis's appointment, I was aware of the debt and gave instructions that it must be addressed.”

The Gazette has several times asked Mr Burt to explain why he took the decision to promote the failed PLP general election candidate, if he did “address the matter” with Mr Richardson, what he said to him, and if the Premier felt shame over the way Ms Harvey had been treated in the 20 months after he made that decision.

Mr Burt has failed to answer the questions.