Minister entangled in coastal works dispute

Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour has been accused of failing to disclose a conflict of interest last December, when he presented a paper to Cabinet that recommended a developer be granted a coastal works permit.

The allegation is made in a judicial review application, which seeks to have the courts overturn a decision by government to grant a coastal works permit to Marcus Cumber to construct a dock on his property at Vista del Mar.

The judicial review application states that Minister Seymour presented a Cabinet paper last December that recommended Cumber be granted his works permit. But the minister did not disclose in the paper that he is a business associate of Cumber, according to the court writ, which was filed by the proprietors of the nearby Salt Creek development.

“The Minister who presented the Cabinet Paper recommending that a permit be granted is a business associate of Mr. Cumber; the Cabinet Paper failed to declare the Minister’s relationship with Mr. Cumber; and in all the circumstances (including that relationship, the failure to declare it, the absence of reasons for the recommendation in the Cabinet Paper and the absence from the relevant meeting of a key member of Cabinet) an informed and fair-minded observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Decision was tainted by bias,” the judicial review application states.

Cumber told the Cayman Compass he does not have any business relationship with Minister Seymour, and the minister declined to comment because the matter is in the court system.

A Compass reporter went to the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday morning to view the register of interests to see Minister Seymour’s business interests, but was told by Serjeant-at-Arms John Kim Evans Jr. that he needed to schedule an appointment to view the register. The earliest available day available to see the register of interests is Friday, Evans told the reporter.

Cumber’s development application is to build a private dock extending 128 feet into the Salt Creek canal for the purpose of mooring his boat, according to the application, which was filed by the corporate strata and supported by an affidavit filed by Donald Seymour.

Along with objecting to the application on the grounds that Minister Seymour failed to disclose his business relationship, the judicial review application also objects to the project for other reasons, including that the dock would obstruct public access along the canal.

“Contrary to [government’s] own policy, the Decision would permit the construction of a dock extending 128 feet into Salt Creek, more than 2000% in excess of the six-foot maximum,” states the application, which is posted on the financial services site OffshoreAlert.

“The Decision and Cabinet Paper contain no reason for the departure from the Respondent’s policy, and an unreasoned departure from a policy is irrational and unlawful,” the application document continued.

A hearing date for the judicial review application has not been set.

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