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Premier defends contract with Attorney-General’s husband

Defence: David Burt, the Premier (File photograph)

David Burt, the Premier, defended the Attorney-General over allegations of nepotism after her husband was awarded a contract with the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform.

Myron Simmons had previously worked as a senior lawyer in the Attorney-General’s Chambers before resigning in March 2023 to set up his own private practice, Onyx Law.

Last month, it was revealed that, immediately after Mr Simmons resigned, Onyx was awarded a contract by the Government to carry out work previously conducted by Mr Simmons.

Onyx was paid $20,833 per month under the contract, which expired last month, after details of the deal were made public.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, has repeatedly refused to comment on the matter.

When questioned by One Bermuda Alliance MPs in the House of Assembly on Friday, Mr Burt insisted that there had been no wrongdoing.

Opposition leader Jarion Richardson asked if the Premier or any other minister had authorised payments to their spouses to provide services to any government ministries.

Mr Burt replied: “These are not matters that are dealt with by the minister. The answer is clearly ‘no’ because the matters are dealt with by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and not the minister.”

Asked by Mr Richardson if he or any minister had been made aware of family members being paid by the Government for providing services, Mr Burt replied: “I will answer that question the way I answered before.

“Ministers do not approve consulting contracts. They are supported but they have to go through the proper process, so I’m not sure what the Honourable Member is getting at.”

Susan Jackson, of the Opposition, also raised questions about the incident.

She noted that under the ministerial code of conduct, ministers must ensure that there are no conflicts of interest when appointing advisers and that all appointments require the prior written approval of the Premier.

Ms Jackson said: “My question to the Premier is, what concerns were raised by the Premier and what due diligence was carried out before awarding this contract to a company, Onyx Law, which happened to be the AG’s husband and the contract was for her ministry?

Mr Burt replied: “What the Honourable Member is referring to is the code of conduct that deals with ministerial advisers. That is not what is going on here.

“This is a contract for services that was entered into by the Attorney-General’s Chambers which has multiple contracts for legal services.

“There are multiple departments that have contracts for legal services. I find it interesting that we’re focusing on this one on this particular Pati request because I know it makes wonderful political fodder for the Opposition, but at the same point in time no one is talking about the $240,000 to various other lawyers in various instances and one can make assumptions as to why they’re focusing on this particular contract rather than others that are more valuable.

“What I will say is the Honourable Member is misleading in her question in that the ministerial code of conduct refers to ministerial advisers.

“Consultant contracts are handled through the Public Service. They go through a process of vetting. That was the case in this particular case and instance, and I hope the Honourable Member will try to stop confusing the issue.”

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Published February 12, 2024 at 11:08 am (Updated February 12, 2024 at 11:08 am)

Premier defends contract with Attorney-General’s husband

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