Three new members named
A shake-up of the Port Authority Board of Directors has taken place, leading to three new members being named this week.
Premier McKeeva Bush said Nick Freeland, Anthony Akiwumi and John Henry Ebanks will take over spots vacated by Stefan Baraud, Woody Foster and Noel March, with Mr. Ebanks replacing Mr. Baraud as chairman.
Mr. Bush said two of the three departing board members had resigned, while Mr. March was “changed”.
The moves come after the Port Authority Board met on Friday, 24 June, and subsequently made a recommendation to the government that it reestablish negotiations with the GLF/Royal Construction team with regard to building the cruise ship berthing facility in George Town Harbour.
After Friday’s meeting, some of the long-serving members reported to Mr. Bush’s Permanent Secretary Carson Ebanks – a statutory member of the board who wasn’t at the meeting – that they were uneasy with what they were told in the meeting, including that they could be sued personally if GLF/Royal were to go that route.
After Friday’s meeting, Mr. Bush said he called the Board into another meeting on Saturday, 25 June, and said “he’d lost confidence with some of the board members’ ability to be impartial” with matters dealing with the cruise berthing facility and that he would be changing some of the new members.
Speaking Wednesday about the reasons for making the changes, Mr. Bush said he’d talked “time and time again” about the way some government boards were not willing to carry out government policy and were proving “to be stumbling blocks”.
“I never did feel I had the support from some of the newly appointed members,” he said, adding that the thing in particular that made him uneasy was the leak of board documents to the media.
“Documents went out to the radio show,” he said. “They had to come out from the board level.”
Mr. Bush mentioned that Mr. March was a director of Royal Construction, something he had not been aware of previously.
Contacted about the situation, Mr. March confirmed he was a director of Royal, but that the board was fully aware of his situation.
“I told Stefan and the board and they didn’t have a problem with it,” he said. “I was happy to recuse myself when [the cruise berthing facility] came up and I didn’t participate in discussions and I didn’t vote on it,” he said.
Mr. March said he came to the board meeting on Saturday and was asked to step out of the room. He said that normally after a meeting, Mr. Baraud would give him a summary of what had happened. On Saturday, he said he did not see Mr. Baraud after the meeting and eventually telephoned him. He said Mr. Baraud then told him that Mr. Bush had said he was going to change the new members of the board, something he found very surprising. Mr. March said Mr. Baraud told him “he wasn’t interested in coming back” to the board.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Baraud had initially told him he would stay with the board, but that early Wednesday evening he had received a text message from the former board chairman indicating he would resign, but help the United Democratic Party “in a different way”.
Efforts to contact Mr. Baraud for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Mr. March said he also telephoned Mr. Foster, who he said told him he had resigned during the Saturday meeting.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Foster had indicated he was desirous of resigning from the board four months ago. Mr. Foster said he had indeed indicated that to Mr. Bush, but he declined to elaborate on the reasons.
Mr. March said he was the board member that was charged with dealing with the conflicts between taxi drivers and tour operators at the port, something he said Mr. Bush asked him personally to do.
“I spent a lot of time dealing with that,” he said, adding that the other board members didn’t really want to have to deal with that sometimes difficult situation.
Mr. March said he hadn’t received any official word from the government yet and was having trouble believing he was going to be replaced.
“I’m here for the country; I’m not here for personal interests,” he said. “It’s very disheartening.”
In April, Mr. Bush announced he had ended the exclusive agreement to deal with GLF/Royal on the cruise berthing facility, even though GLF/Royal said they were ready to proceed. Mr. Bush, however, said the group didn’t have the funding for the project worked out and then in June he announced he’d signed a “ministerial” memorandum of understanding with China Harbour Engineering Company to not only build the cruise berthing facility in George Town, but to build a cruise jetty in West Bay near the Turtle Farm and to make millions of dollars of improvement to the Spotts Dock area. GLF later announced it was willing to include the West Bay jetty and the Spotts Dock improvements in its works, but Mr. Bush still has decided to pursue the contract with China Harbour. “I had to change GLF because they didn’t have funding,” Mr. Bush said. “I did what I had to do under the MOU. I did that with knowledge of the chairman and then went to the board and explained it. It was the full board with legal counsel. No one objected.”
Mr. Bush said he was satisfied with the new members of the board because of their experience in the business world. Mr. Freeland, an accountant, just recently retired as the managing partner of PwC; Mr. Ebanks is a senior vice president at Cayman National; and Mr. Akiwumi is the head of litigation with the law firm Stuarts Walker Hersant.
“I’m very, very pleased and my mind rests at ease.”