MLA Arden McLean and ‘the watch’: Account settled in full

In December 2007, East End MLA Arden McLean used his government-issued credit card to make a personal purchase — a US$3,500 watch — and, as he has now demonstrated, reimbursed the public treasury in January 2008. The explanation is simple enough; arriving at it has been anything but.

Let’s review the sequence of events that has brought us to this point:

Dec. 24, 2007: Mr. McLean, then a Cabinet Minister, uses his government credit card to purchase a diamond-studded women’s Ebel watch for US$3,500.

Jan. 15, 2008: Mr. McLean writes a personal check to the government to cover the cost of his personal expense, in line with government’s accepted practice at the time.

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 — morning: Rooster Radio host Jonathan Piercy receives, and discusses extensively on the air, the results of an open records request, comprising statements for government credit cards issued to five current or former ministers (including Mr. McLean) and five current or former chief officers.

Wednesday, Aug. 13 — afternoon: The Compass receives the same set of credit card statements and begins to call the people involved for their comment. A reporter speaks to Mr. McLean, who declines to comment, citing “contempt of court” issues.

Tuesday, Aug. 19: The Compass publishes its first story on the subject, headlined, “Credit card records revealed.” The Compass reports that “there are indications” the card used to purchase the watch was issued to the ministry headed up, at the time, by Mr. McLean. The Compass states, “It is not known who in the ministry purchased the watch, nor is it known whether this purchase was made for personal reasons or for legitimate government purposes. Further, it is not known whether the amount was repaid, but the Compass is investigating this…” The Compass story includes Mr. McLean’s brief statement, and adds that the Compass had been unsuccessful in repeated attempts to contact Mr. McLean again by email, telephone and text message. After the story appeared, Mr. McLean talks about the watch, on radio and to the Compass, but does not categorically state whether the purchase was personal or for business or whether he paid it back.

Friday, Aug. 22: The Compass publishes a front page story headlined, “Watch linked to McLean’s card: Reimbursement details unclear.” In the story, government officials confirm the watch was not a business expense, and had been charged to the card issued to Mr. McLean, “but they were unable to confirm whether the credit card payment for the watch had ever been reimbursed.” The story includes, verbatim, Mr. McLean’s Aug. 19 comments, and notes that he had not responded to follow-up questions. Friday’s editorial, titled, “Spending Abuse: A swipe against the Cayman people,” criticizes Mr. McLean for his ambiguity and challenges him to answer directly the following questions — “Did you pay back the money for the watch?” and “Would you make public the supporting documentation that puts this issue to rest, once and for all?”

Tuesday, Aug. 26: On Rooster Radio, Mr. McLean slams the Compass for “harassing” him, says he did pay the money back for the watch and provides records that back his assertion.

Today, Aug. 27: The Compass publishes a front page story based on the new information provided by Mr. McLean, a copy of his statement (opposite) and this editorial.

We are pleased to print this information and to give Mr. McLean his due — but sharing his message and proof of his reimbursement to the public purse was, frankly, overdue.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I know it is human to err however I have the highest of respect for Mr. Mclean and would not believe that he would charge something on the Credit card and not eventually pay it back.
    So sad when this pond began to rise that everyone did not do what Mr. Arden did, step forward take the mike and say Now look ya I paid my bill. I am sure that the cards were issued to all of them with the purpose to be used; with no specification stated. Now that the spell has been broken and we know what this was all about I believe we can move on to more important things facing the island.

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  2. Mr. McLean has reimbursed government. It does seem as though he was the focal point of the Compass story, especially in light of there being 10 total cardholders to look at. However, it may just be that his purchases were the most obviously non-government related. It could be that the FOI released more data pertaining to him than the other 9 people. What his documentation does not establish is whether or not the other 9 people misused their credit cards and unlike Mr. McLean did not pay their bills on time and in full. The other 9 still need to account for their spending. Whether they answer to the Auditor General, or whether they answer to Rooster or the Cayman Compass. We, the public should want answers. We should not believe that we know what this was all about and move on.

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  3. What I would like to know is this:

    When these Government Officials were issued with their Gov’t Credit Cards, was the use of the card governed by any Policy which stated what it can and cannot be used for?

    It looks to me that there was never a Policy put in place and persons can use the card (maybe not too much) and pay the bill back in a timely manner that would not cause any speculation that the card holder wanted to steal. If the bill is not paid at all then that can constitute theft.

    Since this has opened a can of worms, I believe a line should be drawn in the sand and there should now be a POLICY instituted, as to what the Government Credit Cards CAN CANNOT BE USED FOR.

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  4. What I don’t understand is if these auditors are so good why didn’t they already know that he paid it back, they clearly made it seem like he did or was doing something wrong…..There’s more to this fiasco then meets the eye.

    Hey Julie where’s your proof of payback, let’s set the record straight..

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