2014 was an especially eventful and newsworthy year in the Cayman Islands. In the following month-by-month retrospective, we revisit the stories that made the major headlines in the Cayman Compass.
Police commissioner foils armed robbery
The New Year’s news year got off to an early start when Police Commissioner David Baines personally foiled an armed robbery of the Diamonds International at 8 a.m. New Year’s Day. Commissioner Baines had chosen Diamonds International as the rendezvous place with friends who were coming in on a cruise ship. Upon arrival at the shop, Cayman’s top cop noticed the robbery taking place, and when the three masked suspects attempted to flee on foot, Commissioner Baines headed them off in his Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV, pinning two of them against the fence and one under the car. Although nearly all of the stolen jewelry: estimated at more than US$800,000 – was recovered, the would-be robbers caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the store. Since one of the suspects was severely injured when Mr. Baines’s vehicle ran over him, an investigation was conducted into the commissioner’s actions. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled on May 29 that no charges would be brought against Mr. Baines.
Women’s CONCACAF football
The Cayman Islands played host to the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 championships with an eight-team tournament that started Jan. 9 at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex and included teams from the United States, Jamaica, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica. The U.S. defeated Mexico on Jan. 20 to win the tournament. Cayman’s team failed to score a goal in any of its three games, losing all three.
Statutory authorities lack accountability
A report released by the Auditor General’s Office on Jan. 22 indicated that Cayman’s statutory authorities often operated without accepted governance rules, without defined output goals, and with board members who had clear conflicts of interest or no experience in the relevant field. The report, which reviewed statutory authorities and government-owned companies for the period between 2011 and 2012, was based on a survey issued by the Auditor General’s office. Eight of the entities, including Cayman Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority, failed to even respond to the survey.
Joey Ebanks pleads guilty
Former Electricity Regulatory Authority Chairman Joey Ebanks reversed his not guilty pleas, admitting to 17 charges of obtaining property by deception, making documents without authority, and forgery during court proceedings on Jan. 24. In addition to other charges, Mr. Ebanks admitted to using ERA funds to make $67,000 worth of purchases at the Cayman Mac store. He also admitted to having a problem with cocaine dependency and pleaded guilty to illegal drug charges on Jan. 28. Mr. Ebanks, the former managing director of the Cayman Turtle Farm when it was known as Boatswain’s Beach, ran unsuccessfully for the Legislative Assembly on the People’s Progressive Movement ticket in 2009. He was named the “Man of the Year” in 2008 by the now-defunct newspaper Cayman Net News. He also hosted a radio talk show on VIBE FM in 2013. He was sentenced on April 3 to serve 27 months in prison.
Syed found, arrested
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced on Jan. 30 that Hassan Syed, the former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, had been arrested in Switzerland in November 2013, and faced extradition. The Auditor General’s Office found irregularities in UCCI’s accounts during a financial audit in 2008, and shortly afterward Syed left the country, saying he had a severe illness. On May 28, Syed was extradited to the Cayman Islands to face charges relating to the use of his UCCI credit card for personal gain.
The Cayman Islands Airport Authority announced on Feb. 7 that Albert Anderson would become its new CEO, replacing acting CEO Andrew McLaughlin, who succeeded the previous acting CEO Kerith McCoy while the latter was on annual leave the previous December. Chairman of the Board Kirkland Nixon confirmed in early February that Mr. McCoy had formally retired after being replaced.
Nichelle Anna-Kay Thomas, a 21-year-old Jamaican national who worked as a domestic helper, became Cayman’s first homicide victim in 2014 when she was stabbed to death on Feb. 9 in the Lookout Gardens, Bodden Town house in which she lived. Devon Campbell, 39, also from Jamaica, was found hanged from a tree outside the home. Police suspected Campbell of killing Ms. Thomas in a domestic dispute. The police later ruled out other possible explanations for the deaths and continued their investigation on the basis that it was an apparent murder-suicide.
‘HARDtalk’ with the Premier
While visiting London on official business, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin appeared on the BBC World News interview show “HARDtalk” with presenter Stephen Sackur in a segment that was filmed on Feb. 4 and first aired on Feb. 11. Key elements of the 24-minute interview centered on the possibility of Cayman establishing a public registry of beneficial ownership of companies and investment funds, and whether the Cayman Islands is a tax haven.
For the second time in two months, the George Town Landfill caught fire on Feb. 12, spewing clouds of putrid, gray smoke over parts of George Town, including the southern Seven Mile Beach area. That evening, the foul-smelling smoke inundated neighboring Camana Bay and blanketed the nearby roadways. The blaze, and the fact that the smoke hung closer to the ground than it did with previous fires, caused the closure of two schools and the offices of Caribbean Utilities Company. The fire ultimately burned for three days.
Sail-cruise ship visits Brac
Cayman Brac had a rare visit from a cruise vessel when the four-mast, 16-sail MS Star Flyer called on Feb. 14. The ship’s 114 passengers were greeted at Scott’s Dock by an entourage of Cayman Islands tourism officials, including Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell. The visit was part of an initiative to attract smaller cruise ships to Cayman Brac.
Telecommunications company LIME, formerly known as Cable & Wireless, announced on Feb. 17 that it had laid off 39 staff members and outsourced some of its installation, repair and maintenance work to the multinational Sweden-based firm Ericsson. Those laid off included 37 Caymanians, who were to have an opportunity to apply for roles with Ericsson, which was required to hire Caymanians under the term of its operating license. LIME said the outsourcing was necessary to stay competitive.
Health City Cayman Islands opens
Phase one of the Health City Cayman Islands project officially opened on Feb. 25. Dr. Devi Shetty, the Indian surgeon whose idea it was to establish the project, said at the opening that it was his intention to build a hospital that would become a standard for the best hospitals in the world to follow. The first phase of the facility includes 140 beds and 17 Indian doctors. The second phase of the project, a 300-bed unit for specialties such as neurology and oncology, is expected to begin in late 2015. Eventually, a 2,000-bed facility with a university and assisted living center is envisioned on the campus.
West Bay Road challenge dismissed
In a judgment published on Feb. 27, Justice Alexander Henderson dismissed a challenge filed by four West Bay women objecting to the closure of a stretch of less than a mile of West Bay Road. They claimed the deal that paved the way for Dart Realty to build a new hotel violated their constitutional rights. Justice Henderson never considered the merits of their case, ruling instead that the women’s challenge was brought too late. In November, the Court of Appeal upheld Justice Henderson’s ruling.
Government split on OMOV
Although Independent MLA Arden McLean’s private member’s motion asking the government to implement 18 single-member voting districts failed, there was dissension among the Progressives-led coalition government. Two of the back-bench MLAs joined four others, including Mr. McLean, in voting for the motion, resulting in a 6-6 draw among the legislators present. Speaker of the House Juliana O’Conner-Connolly broke the deadlock by voting against the motion.
New Pines opens
The new three-story Pines Retirement Home officially opened on March 7. The $7.5 million project, which incorporated elements of the old building, has space for 50 residents and will serve as a hurricane shelter, foregoing the need to evacuate residents. The old building, which opened in 1983, was mostly destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Talk show host arrested
Rooster 101 radio talk show host Austin Harris was arrested on March 10 on suspicion of assaulting a woman the night before. Mr. Harris was immediately suspended from his position as host of the morning talk show “Cayman Crosstalk” and replaced by former legislator and radio talk show host Ellio Solomon. However, with the case still pending, Mr. Harris was reinstated as host of the program on May 12. On June 9th, Mr. Harris was formally charged. After entering a not guilty plea in September, a trial date in May 2015 was set.
Financial services professionals arrested in U.S.
Two Cayman Islands financial services professionals, Eric St-Cyr and Joshua VanDyk of Clover Asset Management, were arrested on March 12 in Miami by undercover U.S. Internal Revenue Service agents and charged with attempting to launder the proceeds of criminal conduct and other funds for the purposes of tax evasion. Both men ultimately pleaded guilty. Mr. VanDyk, an American, was sentenced to 30 months, and Mr. St-Cyr, a Canadian, was sentenced to 14 months.
Wyndham chooses Reef Resort
The Reef Resort in East End, Grand Cayman, signed an agreement to join the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts brand in the first quarter of 2015, it was announced on March 14. As part of the agreement, the Reef will undergo more than $1 million of renovations over three years as it implements the high standards of the luxury brand.
Bryce Merren arrested
Caymanian businessman Bryce Merren appeared in a Puerto Rico court on March 21 after he was arrested by U.S. Homeland Security investigators earlier in the month. He was charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, money laundering and attempting to sell, distribute or dispense cocaine. A probable cause affidavit from one of the Homeland Security undercover agents involved stated that Mr. Merren sought “to purchase 3,000 kilograms of cocaine and establish a U.S. bank account in order to deposit drug proceeds and make an initial payment for the transportation of narcotics.” After initially pleading not guilty at an arraignment in April, Mr. Merren pleaded guilty in December to one of the three charges – conspiracy to distribute narcotics – as part of a plea agreement. A date for sentencing had not been set by Christmas.
Lord Blencathra’s contract terminated
The $14,000-per-month contract of House of Lords member Lord Blencathra, formerly known as David MacLean, was terminated. The contract to serve as the director of the Cayman Islands London office and as a lobbyist in the U.K. on behalf of the Cayman Islands was ended on March 31. The decision came after it was again suggested in the U.K. that Lord Blencathra broke parliamentary ethics rules by trying to influence members of the U.K. parliament and government as part of his duties for the Cayman Islands. In July, Lord Blencathra was required to apologize to the House of Lords for Code of Conduct violations in relation to the contract he signed with the Cayman Islands government in December 2011, even though there was no evidence he had acted improperly in the contract. With respect to the director of the London office position, efforts to replace Lord Blencathra were fruitless through the end of the year.
Criminal suspects’ detention
Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick ordered a commencement date of April 1 for a new law passed in the Legislative Assembly earlier in the year limiting the amount of time police can detain criminal suspects without charging them. The law allows suspects to be held for 48 hours from the time of their arrest, in most cases, and up to 72 hours with the court’s permission. At one time, Cayman police could hold uncharged crime suspects up to nine days without having to go to court for approval to hold them even longer.
Derek Haines off and running
Long-time Royal Cayman Islands Police officer Derek Haines ran his first of six marathons to raise $1 million for HospiceCare on April 6, when he completed the 26.2-mile Paris Marathon in just over four hours. During the year, Haines also ran marathons in Pamplona, Spain, London, San Francisco and Chicago, before finishing up with the Cayman Islands Marathon in December, when he topped his fundraising goal.
Dead chickens mystery solved
A post-mortem examination of one of the more than 400 feral chickens that died suddenly in Bodden Town showed that they died of botulism poisoning. Since chickens are scavengers, it was assumed the Bodden Town chickens had eaten on a dead animal that was contaminated by the toxin. The Department of Environmental Health collected the dead chickens from a site near the Mission House and disposed of them.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick issued a statement at the end of April stating that within 20 months, four murderers serving life sentences would be released from Northward Prison. Under provisions of the Prison Law, governors in Cayman have the authority to order parole of any prisoner serving a life sentence. Less than three weeks later, Owen Barrington Bruce – whose death sentence for the 1986 murder of Charles Ranking was commuted to life in prison in 1991 – was released and deported to Jamaica.
Wedding dress kerfuffle
An incident between a groom-to-be and an H.M. Customs Department officer in the arrival hall at Owen Roberts International Airport came to light on May 1. Former resident Scott McLean from the U.S. was bringing in a wedding dress for his fiancée, who still lived on Grand Cayman. After being married and then honeymooning on the island, the couple planned to return to the U.S. permanently. The Customs officer first tried to assess import duty, but eventually charged a deposit equal to 30 percent of the dresses value, refundable when the dress left the island. However, when the groom spoke to the Compass and story became public, the government scrambled to review the policy. By the end of the month, the government announced that it had eliminated the import duty charge on visitors traveling with wedding attire for anyone who was part of a wedding party.
SafeHaven Marina reopens
SafeHaven Marina, which closed for extensive renovations in 2012, reopened in May. The $3 million renovation project included paved parkin
g, 21 boat slips and restrooms. The project faced a legal dispute between the developer and boat owners at one time, but that was resolved. The Port Authority, which owns the property, agreed with boat owners on a $350 per month lease price for the dock space.
The Londoner opens
The grand opening for a new luxury property at Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Resort, called The Londoner, was held on May 16. The event coincided with the timeshare property’s 25th anniversary celebration. With the addition of the 20-unit Londoner building, Morritt’s topped 200 vacation ownership units.
Strategic Outline Case presented for the dump
The George Town Landfill problem will take five years and at least $100 million to resolve, according to a Strategic Outline Case released by the Cayman government on May 23. The report, which was prepared by the government waste management steering committee, recommended a comprehensive national solid waste management strategy be developed for all three Cayman Islands as a first step in addressing the issue, which has been problematic for more than a quarter century.
Guilty verdict in Bise murder
On May 19, a jury found Chad Anglin guilty of the murder of Swiss banker Frederick Bise, whose body was found in the trunk of his burned car outside of his residence in February 2008. Anglin, who was already serving a five-year sentence for indecent assault and wounding at the time of his murder conviction, was sentenced to life in prison. In December, Leonard Antonio Ebanks, who was also charged with the murder of Mr. Bise, was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of being an accessory to the murder. Ebanks was already serving a life sentence for the 2010 murder of Tyrone Burrell at the time of his trial in the Bise case.
First Caymanian priest
Joseph Kirkconnell was ordained as the first Caymanian priest at St. Ignatius Catholic Church on May 24. Father Kirkconnell, 30, conducted Mass at the church the next day. After serving in Cayman for two months, he was posted to a parish in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in August.
Cellphones banned from schools
Education Minister Tara Rivers announced during the Legislative Assembly budget session on June 2 that cellphones would be banned from all public schools in the Cayman Islands starting in September, in a bid to stamp out cyber bullying. The ban was just one of several measures adopted to deal with bad behavior and bullying issues in the schools.
Alexander Hotel closes
The owner of the 31-room Alexander Hotel in Cayman Brac announced on June 5 that he would close the property indefinitely on June 15 because of the stench emitted by a neighboring natural pond. Owner Cleveland Dilbert’s plan to build a canal from the pond to the ocean and create a marina basin met with opposition from the Department of Environment. Although government officials had expressed their support for the marina project, no agreement was reached, leading to the closure.
Government travel costs
A value-for-money audit by Cayman’s Auditor General’s Office released on June 9 revealed nearly $8.6 million in Cayman Islands central government travel expenses between July 1, 2009 and June 20, 2010. Based on the findings of the audit, Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick said there was “the high likelihood that the government mishandled significant amounts of public resources” and that “monitoring and reporting of these transaction by management was virtually nonexistent.” The audit focused on two particular ministries, one headed by former Premier McKeeva Bush and the other headed by former Deputy Premier and current Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.
Cayman film festival announced
Plans for an international film festival in the Cayman Islands were outlined at a gala at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on June 13. The launch of the Cayman International Film Festival, which is called CayFilm for short, included a celebrity cocktail reception and a screening of “The Two Faces of January.” Spearheaded by local photographer Tony Mark, who worked in film and television editing in Hollywood, the inaugural Cayman film festival is scheduled for June 18 to 21, 2015.
Shelved education report revealed
The original draft of consultant David Moore’s 2012 report that stemmed from a review team’s inspections of Cayman’s public schools was tabled June 23 during Finance Committee proceedings at Legislative Assembly. The report highlighted a number of severe behavioral problems in Cayman’s schools, particularly John Gray High School.
The original report bore little resemblance to the final report, which was tabled simultaneously. It suggested, among other things, that a small minority of John Gray students influenced by criminal intent and drug abuse were having a disproportionate effect throughout the school and that some of the staff were fearful of potential physical and verbal violence. The report recommended firing bad teachers. Ministry of Education Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues said the report was altered because of serious quality concerns.
However, a string of emails among ministry staff in late 2012 concluded that the draft report was “disproportionately negative.” The Ministry of Education said the report was then “finalized” by Favourita Blanchard, the deputy lead inspector on the locally based review team that assisted Mr. Moore. In August, Ms. Blanchard issued a statement through the Barbados Consulate saying she had not altered the report in any way. The ministry never responded to inquiries about who did alter the report.
Cayman under chikungunya alert
Less than a week after Cayman’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said that the Cayman Islands was on high alert for the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya, the first suspected case of the disease was identified at the Cayman Islands Hospital on June 22. It was later confirmed that the George Town resident did have chikungunya, a debilitating disease that causes high fever, headache, nausea and severe joint pain. By the end of June, there were 4,600 confirmed cases and more than 160,000 suspected cases throughout the Caribbean region. Through Dec. 20, there were 43 confirmed cases of the disease in the Cayman Islands, with 15 of them having been transmitted locally.
Clifton Hunter High School costs almost double
In the first year of its operation, the $110 million Clifton Hunter High School on Frank Sound Road incurred $6 million of repair costs and an additional $2.4 million in operation expenses, it was revealed. The high school cost nearly double the contracted price of $56.7 million and took four years to complete – twice as long as anticipated. Construction on Clifton Hunter started virtually simultaneously with construction on John Gray High School, a $59.9 million project which also had huge cost overruns and has never been completed. Minister of Education Tara Rivers said John Gray would be completed in phases over several years.
New customs codes cause hassles
A new tariff system implemented by the Customs Department that expanded the number of codes needed on declaration forms from 300 to roughly 5,000, resulting in a much longer process for those importing goods, especially businesses. Some business owners said what used to take 20 minutes was taking them several hours. After a review of the system, the government announced in August that it would reduce the number of codes to about 2,500 and offer a service for a $5 fee for those who needed help filling out the declarations.
HSBC sells business to Butterfield
Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Ltd. announced on
July 8 that it was acquiring some of the corporate and retail banking business from HSBC Bank (Cayman) Ltd. valued at US$800 million. HSBC said the decision to sell most of its retail and corporate business was made after a strategic market review. The sale was finalized in the fourth quarter of 2014, and HSBC closed its retail doors in November, although it did maintain other parts of its business in Cayman.
New tourism and weather chiefs
In July, Rosa Harris, a seven-year veteran of the Department of Tourism, was confirmed as Cayman’s new director of tourism. She had served as the acting director of tourism since the departure of the previous director, Shomari Scott, in December 2013. Chief Meteorologist John Tibbetts, a 30-year veteran of his industry, was promoted to director general of the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, succeeding Fred Sambula, who retired in May.
Dump on fire, again
An underground fire at the George Town Landfill burned and smoldered for several days before the Fire Service Department was able to extinguish it. After the fire started on the morning of July 19, firefighters worked around the clock on shifts to put out the blaze.
Property sales up
After several years of dismal market conditions, Cayman’s real estate market took a sharp upturn in the first six months of the year. A press release issued by the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association on July 21 said the number of real estate transactions between Jan. 1 and June 30 were up 45 percent over the same period in 2013. In terms of dollar amount, sales weren’t up as much, but still saw a significant 18.7 percent increase.
Logic buys WestStar
Bermuda-based KeyTech Group of Companies announced on July 28 that it was going to purchase the parent company of WestStar, the Internet and cable television provider that also operates Cayman 27, Cayman’s first and longest running television station. Logic was already operating on Cayman as an Internet, cable television and telephone service provider. The Information and Communications Technology Authority approved the sale in August.
Catboat Club reopens
Almost 10 years after it was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, the clubhouse of the Cayman Islands Catboat Club at Whitehall Bay in George Town had a grand reopening on Aug. 2. The construction project was helped by sponsorships and a cash grant from the Dart Group and donations from a number of local building supply companies.
Dump on fire, again… and again
Firefighters had to return to the George Town Landfill on Aug. 3 to put out another underground fire. Chief Fire Officer Roy Grant said the fire was not related to the one in July and was “in a totally different area.” The fire was extinguished the following day, although Mr. Grant said that he could not be sure if it was still smoldering deep below the surface. Two weeks later, on Aug. 17, firefighters were again called to the dump to put out a fire.
Credit card expenditures
Requests made under Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law revealed that government credit cards were used for a variety of personal expenses by Cabinet ministers and chief officers dating back to 2005. The charges were highlighted in a series of news articles published in August. Former Cabinet Minister Arden McLean used his government-issued credit card to buy a US$3,500 watch on Christmas Eve 2007 and for $2,896.45 worth of purchases at a variety of Miami-area stores and restaurants during an October 2008 shopping trip. Mr. McLean later produced proof that he had repaid the sums. Other details shown on the records included exorbitant charges for travel expenses, particularly by former Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who traveled with her executive aide or personal assistant on many of her trips. The records also showed late fees accruing on more than 28 percent of the statements obtained, and large charges for dining out, both in Cayman and overseas. In the wake of the revelations, the government announced it would begin publishing credit card and travel expenses as a matter of policy.
UK regulator rates Cayman high risk
It was learned in August that the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority had published on its website in July a list of countries that were at high risk for financial crime and that the Cayman Islands was on the list. The financial services regulator said the list categorized countries according to the risk they posed to financial crimes linked to money laundering, sanction systems, terrorist financing, bribery and corruption. Cayman was the only U.K. overseas territory and the only major offshore financial center on the list. After representations made by Cayman Islands Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, the FCA withdrew the entire list in September. Mr. Panton later categorized Cayman’s inclusion on the list as a “misunderstanding” caused partly by the FCA having “old, inaccurate data.”
First artificial heart
Albert Seymour, a 48-year-old Caymanian, was the first recipient of a successful artificial heart implant surgery at Health City Cayman Islands. The procedure by chief surgeon Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil in early August took nearly nine hours to complete. Mr. Seymour received a left ventricular assist device, a mechanical pump that supports heart function.
Miss Cayman pageant postponed again
Although 10 contestants were chosen to participate, the Miss Cayman pageant scheduled for November 2014 was postponed until January 2015. The last Miss Cayman pageant was in 2011. The pageant was scheduled and then postponed twice in 2012 due to budget constraints.
Canover Watson arrested
Former chairman of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, former Young Caymanian Leadership Award recipient and leading Caymanian businessman Canover Watson was arrested on Aug. 28 on suspicion of breach of three sections of Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Law. In addition, he was also arrested on suspicion of money laundering contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Law. Although details weren’t released, it was known that the Auditor General’s office and the Anti-Corruption Commission were looking into the contract with a company that ran a swipe card payment system called CarePay, which secured a contract during Mr. Watson’s time as HSA chairman. CarePay had been the subject of controversy during the Finance Committee sessions of Legislative Assembly in June because of its costs and failure to provide the expected benefits. Mr. Watson was charged with five separate corruption, fraud and money laundering offenses on Nov. 20.
Nearly 12,000 square feet of coral reef in George Town harbor was damaged when the cruise ship Carnival Magic dropped its anchor in the wrong place. The ship had been mistakenly guided by a Bodden Shipping Agency pilot to anchor 650 feet outside the designated public port anchorage. No sanctions were imposed against the cruise line or the shipping agency by the end of the year, and repair efforts were largely carried out by private sector dive operations and volunteers.
One man, one vote reversal
Reversing his stance in comments made earlier in the year, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced on Sept. 3 that the Progressives-led government would implement single-member constituencies and a “one man, one vote” system by mid-2015, well ahead of the next general elections. Currently the number of Legislative Assembly representatives in each of the country’s voting districts differs based on population of the district. Electors in multi-representative constituencies get the same number of votes as there are represent
atives, creating a system where people in some districts have more votes than people in other districts. The proposed changes would split the Cayman Islands into single member constituencies where every voter only votes for one person.
Special Olympics athlete murdered
Solomon Webster, who won a gold medal in bocce at the 2010 Special Olympics in Puerto Rico, was shot in the upper leg near his home in West Bay on Sept. 7. He died shortly afterward from his wound. Three men were later arrested and charged: Jose Sanchez on a charge of murder, and Graham Lauer and Blake Barrell for allegedly being an accessory after the fact. The charges against Mr. Barrell were later dropped.
McKeeva Bush trial starts
On Sept. 8, McKeeva Bush, Cayman’s first premier and current leader of the opposition, formally entered pleas of not guilty on 11 charges, including six relating to misconduct in public office and five relating to the Anti-Corruption Law. At the core of the trial were allegations that Mr. Bush used his government-issued credit card to get cash advances to gamble in U.S. casinos. The trial started with opening statements on Sept. 15 and ended with not guilty verdicts on all counts on Oct. 9.
Grand Cayman observed the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan’s rampage on Sept. 11. In addition to government pronouncements commemorating the event, a photographic exhibit at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands depicted the aftermath of the hurricane.
EY report released
The long-awaited Ernst & Young report, undertaken at the request of the Cayman Islands government, was released on Sept. 9. The report made a number of recommendations, including selling $65 million worth of government property and outsourcing public sector medical operations. Former Ministry of Education Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues was chosen in August to head the team that would implement the recommendations. However, in the weeks after the release of the report, the Progressives-led government said they would not implement several of the key recommendations.
Yacht Club opens
Dart Realty completed a two-year, $7-million renovation of the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and celebrated with a reopening ceremony on Sept. 24. Governor Helen Kilpatrick officially launched the new facility by smashing a bottle of Champagne off one of the dock’s entrances. In addition to upgraded boat slips, the renovated Yacht Club features a general store and a new restaurant, which opened on Dec. 21.
Kenneth Bryan arrested
Premier Alden McLaughlin’s political assistant, Kenneth Bryan, was arrested as a result of an incident outside of a local nightclub on Oct. 11. Mr. Bryan, who ran unsuccessfully for a Legislative Assembly seat in George Town in 2013, worked as a Cayman 27 television news reporter prior to that. On Dec. 5, police formally charged Mr. Bryan with assaulting police and using threatening and abusive language. Shortly afterward, Mr. Bryan was placed on “required leave” from his government position until the disposition of the case.
Armed robberies in restaurants
Two armed robberies at restaurants frequented by tourists occurred in October, the first at Da Fish Shack in George Town on Oct. 13 and another at Coconut Joe’s in the southern Seven Mile Beach corridor on Oct. 16. In both cases, customers were robbed as well as the establishment. In addition, more than a dozen homes were burgled in the George Town area between Oct. 14 and Oct. 16. Another George Town eatery, Paradise Restaurant, was robbed by a gunman on Nov. 10
With the Ebola virus scare in the U.S. at its peak, the Cayman Islands Cabinet approved a travel ban on Oct. 21 to prevent anyone who had recently been in the affected region of West Africa from entering the country. The same day, Health Services Authority CEO Lizzette Yearwood said two modular field hospital units that could quarantine a total of 16 patients had been ordered. Over the next month, the HSA announced it would spend a total of $2.9 million on the field hospital, 500 protective hazmat suits, associated equipment and staff training. On Oct. 27, an ill female tourist who arrived at the airport was tended to by medical personnel dressed in hazmat suits, but health officials confirmed the same day that she did not have Ebola.
Child slain, mother arrested
Six-year-old Bethany Butler, a Year 2 student at Savannah Primary School, was found dead on Oct. 27 in the passenger seat of a vehicle parked in the bush off the Queen’s Highway. She had been stabbed multiple times. The child’s mother Tamara Butler, 37, was arrested and formally charged with murder on Nov. 14. More than 1,000 people attended the child’s funeral service on Nov. 9.
Squatters arrested, buildings demolished
The standoff on Shedden Road, which occurred when several families – including the children of missing George Town landfill worker Anna Evans and their caretaker – refused to vacate homes earmarked for demolition, came to an end on Oct. 29 when police arrested four people and the buildings were torn down. A large crowd gathered on the cordoned-off section of Shedden Road to watch as the homes on the property of Kent “Biggie” Rankin were demolished. Mr. Rankin, who bought the property from other relatives of the Evans family, had been trying to get the tenants of the ramshackle houses to leave the premises for more than a year through various court processes. The Department of Children and Family Services found alternative housing for Mrs. Evans’s children and their caretaker in one of the new affordable homes in Bodden Town.
Kadi Merren-Pentney tops YCLA
Kadi Merren-Pentney, 28, received the 2014 Young Caymanian Leadership Award on Nov. 1. The annual televised award ceremony, which was started in 2000 as a way of celebrating Cayman’s rising stars who could serve as role models for youth, was held at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. Other finalists were Michael Lockwood, Katrina Jurn, Chevala Burker and Lydia Warren.
Landfill consultant named
The government announced in the first week of November that it had engaged the U.K.-based company AMEC to help develop a 50-year waste management strategy. The Cabinet minister with responsibility for the dump at the time, Osbourne Bodden, also revealed that it was unlikely that the new landfill plant would begin operations in 2017 as he had earlier stated.
Cayman cop convicted of murder in Jamaica
A Jamaican police officer serving with the Royal Cayman Islands Police was fired after he was convicted of murder in Jamaica on Nov. 19. Tyrone Findlay was sentenced to 25 years after a jury unanimously found him guilty of the Jan. 1, 2010 murder of a man in Manchester, Jamaica. Findlay had argued that the shooting was self-defense in the line of duty. After this information was revealed, calls for the resignation of Police Commissioner David Baines ensued. Mr. Baines did not resign. Contracts for Jamaican police officers applying to the RCIPS were put on hold in December.
RBC Wealth Management exits
RBC Wealth Management, an arm of Royal Bank, announced that it was discontinuing its private wealth management business in the Caribbean, including in the Cayman Islands, on Nov. 20. However, RBC said the move would not impact its retail banking operations in Cayman.
Treasure Island Resort in receivership
The Treasure Island Resort on southern Seven Mile Beach was placed in receivership on Nov. 22. The 280-room resort has had financial difficulties off and on since its construction in the early 1980s, despite having se
veral different owners. Two partners from Zolfo Cooper were named receivers of the company Restoration Cayman, which is the legal owner of the property. The receivers said the property would continue operating as normal.
Cayman squash team members Cameron Stafford and Marlene West won the mixed doubles gold medal at the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, on Nov. 26. The duo defeated players from the host nation in the final, but also defeated the top-ranked Columbian pair in the semifinals to win a surprising gold medal.
Immigration chief suspended
Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans was suspended with full pay on Dec. 1 due to a number of allegations of misconduct. The Ministry of Home Affairs said it would conduct an investigation into the matter. Three weeks prior, on Nov. 7, the Immigration Department’s director of boards and work permits, Kimberly Davis, was suspended with full pay while an investigation into an alleged breach of law was conducted.
Complaints Commissioner resigns
Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams submitted her resignation on Dec. 4, effective January 2015, seven months before her contract was to end. Ms. Williams, who was appointed to the post in August 2009, was given only a one-year extension when her five-year contract expired in August 2014. Ms. Williams has been appointed as U.K. Service Complaints Commissioner, a position she will take up upon returning to the United Kingdom in 2015.
Minister’s profane tirade
Cabinet Minister Osbourne Bodden spewed a profanity-laced tirade at his chief officer, Jennifer Ahearn, on Dec. 10, calling her “f%&king driftwood” and telling her he could make her life “a living hell.” Outrage over the incident led to calls for his resignation. Premier Alden McLaughlin announced on Dec. 19 that he was shuffling Cabinet ministry duties, with the Ministry of Health – including responsibility for the George Town landfill – transferring to him, along with the Ministry of Culture. Mr. Bodden is to retain the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Youth responsibilities, and take on the Ministry of Community Affairs as well. As part of the arrangement, Ms. Ahearn is now Mr. McLaughlin’s chief officer, and Dorine Whitaker, the chief officer of Community Affairs, is Mr. Bodden’s chief officer.
Captain Marvin dies
The Cayman Islands lost a tourism pioneer when Captain Charles Marvin Ebanks died at age 98 on Dec. 20. Captain Marvin ran the watersports company bearing his name for more than 60 years. He first started running tours to the North Sound in the early 1950s and was actively involved in the operations of his company into his 90s, running a boat until he was 93.