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OBA: Attorney-General filibustered to avoid tough questions

Out of time: Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform (File photograph)

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, has been accused of deliberately avoiding questions from the Opposition concerning a government contract awarded to her husband.

The One Bermuda Alliance made the claim after yesterday’s Budget debate for the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform.

Ms Simmons spent the entire four hours allocated for the debate outlining her ministry’s spending plans for the next year — leaving no time for OBA MPs to ask questions.

Scott Pearman, the OBA spokesman on legal affairs, said yesterday that Ms Simmons had filibustered the debate to dodge questions about her husband’s contract.

Myron Simmons had been a salaried employee working as a senior counsel under his wife at the Attorney-General’s Chambers until his resignation from the department at the end of March 2023.

But he was immediately rehired as a legal consultant for the Attorney-General’s Chambers. That contract, in which Mr Simmons was paid $13,722, was to run for only three months while the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s sought a replacement for Mr Simmons.

But it was torn up one month later and overridden by a new contract between the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Onyx Law — a company set up by Mr Simmons in April 2023.

Under that contract, the company was paid $20,833 per month. Onyx Law’s work continued until this month, when details of the contract were made public.

Mr Pearman said that he had intended to ask Ms Simmons about the contract, and other issues, during yesterday’s debate, but was deliberately blocked by Ms Simmons.

“The Attorney-General came in with a giant binder and read from it for the entire time to take up the clock,” he said.

“She was still reading when the four-hour time limit ran out, leaving no time at all for questions. It is clear to me that oneof the questions that the Attorney-General didn’t want to answer concerned her husband’s secret contract with the Attorney-General’s Chambers.”

Mr Pearman said he had wanted to ask why the Government had initially employed Mr Simmons as a consultant on $13,722 per month, and then hired his law firm on a far higher salary one month later.

He said: “Mr Simmons stood down as a Crown Counsel and was immediately taken on as a consultant until he set up his new company, which was then paid considerably more.

Mr Pearman described the salary figures as “interesting”. Invoices submitted by Onyx Law show that Mr Simmons was charging the Government the exact amount — $20,833 per month, or $250,000 per year — irrespective of the number of hours he worked.

Mr Pearman also questioned if anyone within the Attorney-General’s Chambers had carried out any background checks on Mr Simmons, who had failed to pay $52,000 in stamp duty on behalf of clients when he was in private practice with his wife.

In a March 2022 judgment, Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden described the conduct of Mr Simmons as “suspicious”, adding that he would refer the matter to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Pearman said: “The Attorney-General’s husband stepped down as a Crown Counsel after being criticised by a court judge. And he’s then immediately taken on as a consultant. He then creates a new company and that company is then hired as a consultant. It stinks.”

He also raised concerns about timing.

“Why did the contract suddenly stop in January? Is it because that’s when people found out about it?

The Attorney-General was contacted for comment, but no reply had been received as of press time.

Jarion Richardson, the leader of the OBA, also expressed concerns about government contracts.

In a statement, Mr Richardson noted that the Government spent $41 million on consultants last year — more than double the $16.8 million that the OBA spent during its last year in office in 2016-17.

Describing the sum as eye-watering, Mr Richardson said: “We must reduce the cost of doing business in Bermuda and cut unnecessary red tape. This is what the OBA means when we promise responsible spending.

“Why does the Progressive Labour Party decide to splash out almost $41 million of the peoples’ money when we have elected MPs to do the job?

“How did the consultancy budget escalate from almost $17 million under the OBA to almost $41 million last year? That’s more than double — in fact, it’s more than a 140 per cent increase by the PLP.

“The PLP should come clean regarding the consultants they hired. What are these consultants doing to justify $41 million of our money? Are we getting real value for that staggering amount?”

The Attorney-General has not spoken publicly about her husband’s employment and did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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Published March 01, 2024 at 8:02 am (Updated March 01, 2024 at 8:02 am)

OBA: Attorney-General filibustered to avoid tough questions

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