OBA takes aim at Terrence J appointment
Opposition MP Craig Cannonier has questioned why taxpayers were kept in the dark about the appointment of an American celebrity to the Bermuda Tourism Authority board.
The shadow tourism minister spoke out after the publicly funded quango released records showing payments of more than $25,000 to actor and model Terrence Jenkins, as well as a $4,000 flight to the island from Los Angeles.
The former BET reporter, who has 3.1 million followers on Instagram, was appointed by David Burt in late 2020 without any public announcement.
The Premier, who was then responsible for tourism, also failed to post a notice in the Official Gazette, as required by law.
California-based Mr Jenkins, who is also known as Terrence J, attended just a handful of the BTA’s conference-call board meetings before quitting in March 2022.
Mr Cannonier said: “Why not announce Terrence J? Why not let people know that we have got this great guy that’s going to assist us?”
He said he could see the rationale for trying to get publicity on social media for Bermuda with the help of a celebrity influencer but he queried whether a board appointment was the way to do it.
“It would have been better if they had put him on as an adviser in a consultatory position,” he said. “I recognise that the BTA has to look at different avenues but this did not work.
“Why get someone on the West Coast? Why not get someone on the East Coast? It’s either amateur hour on our part or just doesn’t make sense.”
Mr Cannonier said that Mr Jenkins having attended just four of the 12 meetings held during his time on the board showed that the appointment “failed”.
He said: “Clearly he felt that he was not doing a good job, so he left, and that’s an admittance in itself that we were not getting value for money.”
Mr Jenkins’s appointment came two years after he was invited to take part in the Dream Weekend in Bermuda in summer 2018.
The Government used leftover cash from the 2017 America's Cup to pay Mosaic, a US company, $179,400 to organise the event, which involved Cup Match parties for social-media celebrities and influencers.
The visitors were taken to the Tucker’s Town home of businessman Chris Maybury and each received a bottle of champagne, along with a steel straw.
Mr Burt insisted that the marketing campaign represented “extremely good value for money”, with the hashtag #DreamBermuda reaching more than 6.7 million potential travellers, although the Government said in 2020 that it needed more time to calculate the total cost of the weekend.
The contracts for the Dream Weekend were not gazetted until two years after the event, after The Royal Gazette flagged up their absence.
Mr Cannonier said that, coupled with the failure to gazette Mr Jenkins’s appointment, was of concern.
“It’s compulsory when you are appointing a member that you let people know who the board members are,” he said.
“If you are putting somebody on the board, just tell us. If you have hired somebody, just tell us. Where’s the transparency?”
The payment records for Mr Jenkins were released almost two years after The Royal Gazette requested them under public access to information.
Initially, the BTA said that it had no record of travel payments for Mr Jenkins but then found the airline ticket during a review by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Mr Cannonier said: “It's disappointing to see contradictions coming from the BTA.
“One minute we have the BTA say that it had no record of paying for flights for Terrence J, yet the Pati request clearly reveals that a flight was paid for, so we have some challenges and contradictions taking place.
“This is concerning and the people of Bermuda need to know the truth.”
Mr Jenkins missed seven consecutive meetings of the board before quitting. The legislation governing the BTA states that the tourism minister can remove a board member for failing to attend three consecutive meetings “without reasonable excuse”.
Mr Burt claimed this week: “A significant consideration mitigating against Mr Jenkins's continued service on the board was the constant negative media attention received in Bermuda.
“Mr Jenkins continues to promote competing jurisdictions with no issues like the ones created by the hostile press in Bermuda.”
The Royal Gazette’s coverage of the Dream Weekend was published before Mr Jenkins joined the BTA. There were no articles about him published during his time on the board, from November 2020 to March 2022.
Mr Cannonier said: “The Premier is looking to the stars for answers and all he can come up with is ‘negative media attention’. It’s nonsense.
“The Premier needs to show us where was the negative feedback on this, especially since it wasn’t announced.”
Mr Burt and the BTA did not respond to further questions yesterday.