He was relieved of ministerial duties, remained as MLA
On 1 October, 1997, William McKeeva Bush was the first elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for West Bay and Minister of Community Development, Sports, Women’s Affairs, Youth and Culture.
Then news emerged of problems at First Cayman Bank and its parent bank in the Bahamas. The headline in the Caymanian Compass for 14 October, 1997, read, “First Cayman Bank shut down”. Mr. Bush was listed in the MLAs’ Register of Interests as a director of First Cayman Bank. MLA Roy Bodden called for an explanation on behalf of the estimated 3,000 Caymanians and residents who had accounts at the bank.
Then there were allegations of irregularities at the bank and on 17 October, the Cabinet of the day – known then as Executive Council – decided to revoke the bank’s licence and apply to the Grand Court for liquidation immediately.
On 21 October, Mr. Bush issued a statement clarifying his position. He said he had never accepted any appointment as a director of First Cayman Bank, although he had accepted appointment as a director of Gulf Union Bank, its parent bank. He said the listing in the Members’ Register of Interests was an error, which he had since sought to have rectified.
Meanwhile, depositors began organising a petition calling for his resignation. On 22 October, colleagues on the National Team, as the political group was known, requested Mr. Bush to resign as a minister of Executive Council. The next day, Mr. Bush was relieved of his ExCo duties by the Governor, John Owen. He then temporarily transferred Mr. Bush’s responsibilities to Anthony Eden, minister for Health.
Richard Coles, attorney general at the time, explained that Mr. Bush continued as MLA and as a Member of Executive Council, but with no ministerial responsibilities. Because ministers are elected by the Legislative Assembly, it was expected that the Assembly would deal with the situation when it sat again, which was originally scheduled to be on 31 October but was postponed until 5 November.
West Bay constituents held a rally in support of Mr. Bush on Thursday, 30 October, at the West Bay playing field and invited supporters from all districts. Over 400 people were counted at the beginning of the evening, with more people arriving as the event continued.
That night Mr. Bush announced his intention to resign from Executive Council and the Governor’s Office subsequently confirmed that the resignation had been received that day.
“I will resign not as a bitter man but as someone who has accomplished something for the people of these Islands,” he said.
He told the attentive audience that the good of the country was larger than himself. In any national crisis, patriotism, love of country and honour demand that the interest of the country should be placed before his own interest.
He said he had never done anything while in ExCo to line his own pocket. He revealed his recommendation to the Governor – that no minister or MLA become a director of any entity that has the potential of conflicting with the collective and individual responsibilities of government.
He said it was not the end of the world because he would be better able to look after the needs of West Bay and the Islands as a whole. “It is hard to be asked to step down or resign, but whatever is best for the county I am willing to do.”
He also asked people not to pay attention to rumours, as he had not done anything wrong. “When the time comes, my name will be cleared,” he said.
The election of a new minister was the first order of business when the House met the following week and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, first Elected MLA from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, was chosen.
In the November 2000 General Elections, Mr. Bush was again returned as first elected MLA for West Bay, and again elected by legislators to be a minister in the new Government.