Right vacation, wrong time

A top Maryland official resigned under pressure after the Baltimore Sun newspaper revealed she had skipped out to the Cayman Islands for a seven-day getaway instead of overseeing repairs to the state’s struggling health insurance exchange, for which she was responsible.

File this one under “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Seizing the opportunity to assign blame for problems implementing the U.S. Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare), bickering politicians accused Rebecca Pearce of abandoning her post during a crisis and questioned her competence and capabilities.

We’re not inclined to be so harsh toward Ms Pearce. After all, when she boarded that airplane in late November, she was leaving near-freezing conditions in Baltimore for temperatures in the high 70s in Cayman — swapping the ongoing federal health care reform debacle for one week of bliss.

Gaining a tropical paradise family vacation, but losing a job. One wonders if Ms Pearce would make the same choice if given a second opportunity.

Perhaps so, if she attended the Homecoming Concert and scored an invitation to an authentic Cayman Thanksgiving dinner party.

Or if she were able to visit the Turtle Farm, Stingray City and both dolphin parks, drink a mudslide at Rum Point, explore the M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts, snorkel at Smith Cove, have high tea at Government House, sit in on a Legislative Assembly session and call into Rooster Radio to rail on about the National Conservation Bill.

That would make for a busy week, but apparently Ms Pearce’s schedule was packed because “she could not be reached by phone, email or text,” according to the Maryland health department, the Sun reported.

Maybe she was camping on Owen Island.

Or her cell phone connection was acting up.

Whatever the particulars, Maryland’s loss of Ms Pearce was Cayman’s gain — in the form of free media exposure. The Sun reporter was even kind enough to refer to Cayman as a “Caribbean isle” rather than a “notorious tax haven” or “that place where Mitt Romney hides his money.”

Accompanying the Sun coverage online is a gallery with lovely photos of Cayman, including many credited to our Department of Tourism.

So even though the next executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange will probably think twice before jetting off to Cayman in the midst of a high-pressure and politically charged situation, we can be pretty certain that Ms Pearce and her family had a nice time while they were here.

Come to think of it, this could be a new target audience for Cayman tourism: stressed-out U.S. government officials fleeing flak over the ObamaCare rollout. It might be a niche worth exploring.

“Cayman: Sun. Sand. Sea. Nine in 10 residents already insured.”

The sad tale of Ms Pearce (who, by the way, we hope quickly secures a new job and comes back soon) should serve as a warning to our own government officials, elected and appointed, who also from time to time have been found incommunicado on the wrong side of the globe when their presence is urgently, and obviously, required back home. No one here has lost a job over it, though, so far.

Perhaps the difference between Maryland and Cayman can be measured not just in degrees Fahrenheit, but in the degree of accountability for public figures.

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