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OBA renews calls for AG to answer questions about Onyx

Wall of silence: Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons has failed to respond to questions about her husband’s contract (File photograph)

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, is under renewed pressure to answer questions about a government contract awarded to her husband.

Ms Simmons, who is also the Minister of Legal Affairs, has so far declined to speak publicly on her husband’s appointment last year as a legal consultant in her ministry.

Myron Simmons, a lawyer, had previously been a salaried employee at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, but resigned in March last year. He was immediately taken on as a consultant on a salary of $13,721 a month.

His monthly remuneration increased to $20,833 two months later after negotiating a new contract through his newly established company, Onyx Law.

A ministry spokeswomen later justified that contract, claiming that Onyx Law had “considerable expertise” and was considered “the best value for money for providing much needed specialist services at the most competitive rate”.

The ministry spokeswoman also confirmed that the contract had not gone out to tender.

Mr Simmons previously failed to pay $52,000 in stamp duty on behalf of a client when he was in private practice.

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

However, no complaint was made to the police and the matter was not advanced.

Ms Simmons has remained silent about her husband’s contract, despite repeated requests by The Royal Gazette for comment. David Burt, the Premier, defended the arrangement when quizzed by opposition MPs in the House of Assembly last month.

The One Bermuda Alliance has accused the minister of ducking questions on the issue. During a debate on the ministry’s budget this month, Ms Simmons spoke for the entire four hours allotted, leaving no time for opposition MPs to ask questions.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, has now challenged Ms Simmons to answer a number of questions on the matter.

More questions than answers

Scott Pearman has asked the Attorney-General the following seven questions relating to her husband’s government contract.

• Did the AG have any involvement, directly or indirectly, in either of the two contracts giving money to her husband and to Onyx?

• When did the AG first become aware that her husband had created Onyx in April 2023?

• Was the AG to have any financial interest in Onyx or to receive any financial benefit from Onyx?

• Why cancel a contract paying the AG’s husband $13,722 a month, only to then replace that arrangement with a secret and larger contract paying Onyx $20,833 each month?

• Why did the Government fail to disclose the Onyx contract to Parliament when answering questions from the Opposition on May 19, 2023?

• Given the contract paid Onyx $250,000 annually, why terminate the contract after only eight months in around January/February 2024 after the existence of the contract with Onyx was leaked to the public?

• Has Onyx provided services to any other government departments and, if so, at what cost and are any services by Onyx ongoing?

Mr Pearman said: “It is the duty of the Opposition to hold the Government to account. This includes raising questions on behalf of the public whenever there is concerning behaviour by public officers.

“The Attorney-General has failed to answer some very straightforward questions concerning the considerable amount of public money given to her husband, Myron Simmons, and to his company, Onyx Limited.

“If the Attorney-General has nothing to hide, here are seven questions that she can and should answer to the public. These are legitimate and proper questions which need to be answered.”

The Royal Gazette forwarded Mr Pearman’s questions to a ministry press officer, along with 15 additional questions that it has repeatedly submitted over the last two months. No response was received by press time.

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