A slew of legal troubles and internal rifts led to a tumultuous year for the United Democratic Party’s elected members in 2012.
None of the troubles trumped those surrounding former Premier McKeeva Bush, who already had the cloud of a criminal investigation hanging over his head when 2012 started. Things only got worse on 20 April, 2012, when Governor Duncan Taylor announced that Mr. Bush was under another criminal investigation and then a day later when the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service upped the ante and said he was under three separate criminal investigations.
About 10 months earlier, in June 2011, Mr. Taylor had confirmed that Mr. Bush had been under investigation for financial irregularities surrounding a real estate deal that had transpired back in 2005. While that matter, which involved lands previously owned by developer Stan Thomas, apparently remained under investigation for all of 2012 – nearly three years after the investigation started – the announcement that there were two other matters being investigated by police came as a surprise.
Although the RCIPS said that one of the other two investigations involved Mr. Bush’s role in the importation of explosive devices that where to be used for blasting on a quarry, all that it said about the third investigation was that it involved financial irregularities that were separate from the investigation into the previous land deal matter.
Despite calls for him to step down as premier, Mr. Bush stayed in power for most of the year, despite increasing speculation later in the year that he would be arrested and charged.
On 12 December, the police did indeed arrest Mr. Bush on suspicion of theft in connection with financial irregularities relating to the alleged misuse of a Government credit card and breach of trust, abuse of office and conflict of interest, contrary to Section 13, Section 17 and Section 19 of the Anti-Corruption Law 2008, in connection with the alleged importation of explosive substances without valid permits on or before February 2012.
However, the police did not charge Mr. Bush with any crime and, after two days of questioning, released him on bail until February 2013.
Mr. Bush again rejected calls for him to resign, saying he had done nothing wrong. Initially, his United Democratic Party colleagues stood behind him. But then after Mr. Bush, in the midst of the turmoil, still travelled to Jamaica to deliver a commencement address at a university, and described Governor Taylor as his enemy while there, a rift in his government ensued. After trying unsuccessfully to persuade Mr. Bush to resign as premier and as a Cabinet minister and take a place on the UDP back bench until the criminal investigation was resolved, five of the nine UDP members told the Opposition and Independent members of the Legislative Assembly they would support a motion of no-confidence in Mr. Bush if they would support a new minority government.
On 19 December, the Legislative Assembly voted 11-3 in favour of the vote of no-confidence, with Mr. Bush abstaining and UDP members Mike Adam, Ellio Solomon and Captain Eugene Ebanks voting against. The next day, Mr. Taylor informed Mr. Bush he was no longer premier and announced a new minority government with Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly taking over as premier. Ministers Rolston Anglin and Mark Scotland remained as ministers while UDP backbenchers Cline Glidden Jr. and Dwyane Seymour took positions in Cabinet, replacing Mr. Bush and Mr. Adam.
On 29 December, four of the five Cabinet members resigned from the UDP, and Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly followed suit the following week.
Guilty of DUI
Mr. Bush wasn’t the only elected UDP member to find himself in legal troubles.
Minister of Education Rolston Anglin was arrested for suspicion of drinking while under the influence of alcohol in the early hours of Wednesday, 23 May, after being involved in a one-car accident near the Avalon condominiums on West Bay Road.
Breath tests conducted on Mr. Anglin by police subsequently showed he was over the legal limit for alcohol.
Mr. Anglin was eventually charged with dangerous driving and driving under the influence and appeared in court on 13 November.
In the trial, police gave testimony that Mr. Anglin gave three different accounts of how the accident occurred, telling one officer on the telephone initially he had fallen asleep and run off the road into the bushes, but had not been drinking. In a formal interview later, he told officer that a car was coming toward him and he swerved to avoid a collision. Later still, Mr. Anglin said he was driving along West Bay Road when tried to turn around after he remembered he needed to buy some dog food from an all-night gas station. While turning around, he said he slid off the road, which was wet with rain.
One bizarre twist to the story was the fact that a female was in the car with Mr. Anglin at the time of the accident. Before police took her name, however, the female asked to use the bathroom at a nearby hotel where she was staying. She never returned from the bathroom. Mr. Anglin could only say that she was a delegate attending a conference, but did not know her name.
After two days of proceedings, the trial was adjourned until 27 November, when more testimony was to be given. However, on the 27th before the trial was to continue, Mr. Anglin pleaded guilty to both charges against him and agreed to enter a DUI programme run by the Counselling Centre. Since the next programme didn’t start until January 2013, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn agreed to delay sentencing until 5 March, 2013.
After the UDP split and there were calls from some corners for him to step aside pending sentencing, Mr. Anglin said his situation was different from Mr. Bush’s because it wasn’t possible for him to go to prison for his offence or to be disqualified from the Legislative Assembly. He noted that the worst that could happen to him was to lose his driver’s licence.
One other sitting UDP member, Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, faced a potential investigation from the Anti-Corruption Commission during 2012 stemming from the findings of an auditor general’s report delving into the paving of private parking lots in Cayman Brac.
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick found that it was inappropriate for Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly – who was deputy premier and the minister of works at the time – to authorise the spending of more than $520,000 of public funds to pave more than 50 private parking lots in Cayman Brac without approval from the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Swarbrick said he had referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office and said that if he did not act on the report, he would consider bringing the matter before the Anti-Corruption committee.