More Silence

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Once more the Premier of Bermuda has his name associated with concerns about the use of public funds.  The 'lost file' linked the Premier to a police 'investigation' about the County's missing millions. We attempted to ask some questions about the funds and associated concerns but a response to our list (click here to read) was not received.  
     
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Government silent on allegations
By Sam Strangeways

Government has failed to answer questions about the American contractors accused in court of publishing "false and fraudulent information" about the African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Foundation.

Henderson Associates Inc. got hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars last year from the Department of Tourism to organise an ADHT conference at the Fairmont Southampton. But tourism director William Griffith told The Royal Gazette yesterday he wasn't sure if the Department wished to respond to queries about allegations made about the firm in Supreme Court and backed up by evidence submitted by ousted civil servant LeYoni Junos.

Nor did Mr. Griffith provide answers to queries about why Henderson Associates run by brother and sister Jake Henderson and Gaynelle Henderson-Bailey remain hired as event planners for ADHT or how much their contract is worth.

Former ADHT administrator Ms Junos, 47, won her civil case against Government for unlawful dismissal on Friday but failed to convince Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley that her sacking was the result of ministerial interference by Premier Ewart Brown.

Days before she was fired, Ms Junos was reprimanded by Tourism Minister Dr. Brown after she raised concerns about Maryland-based Henderson Associates, with whom she claimed the Premier had close ties.

Documents she submitted as evidence for the legal case included an e-mail from one of her bosses at the Department of Tourism asking the Hendersons to retract "misleading and not correct information" about the publicly funded foundation having US charitable status and explain why it was asking for donations for ADHT to be sent to an unknown entity called FACTS Institute Inc.

Ms Junos told the ADHT board in a letter the day before she was sacked that the Hendersons had published "false and fraudulent information" a view supported by the foundation's lawyer Bala Nadarajah. Mr. Justice Kawaley, in his judgement, said there was "no basis for any suggestion that the... inaccuracies they were criticised for were motivated by anything more than excessive enthusiasm to start raising funds for the foundation".

He appeared to chastise Ms Junos, who failed in her bid to get reinstated to her post, for providing copies of her evidence to the media during the judicial review.

"She has (without obvious justification) accused her former supervising officers of malice and cowardice and, in the course of the hearing of her application, has made materials available to the press which can only have embarrassed the respondent," he wrote. "These actions (not improper in and of themselves) were wholly inconsistent with the actions of an employee who, while challenging the legality of their termination, is simultaneously able to demonstrate their capacity to reassume their former position in a harmonious manner."

Henderson Associates has been involved with ADHT for several years but it is unclear if it bids for the contract against competitors. An affidavit filed by Ms Junos suggests it received $300,000 from the public purse in 2008.

Government's financial instructions require at least three quotations to be obtained for contracts worth more than $5,000, to ensure taxpayers get value for money. Ms Junos states in her affidavit that minutes from a September 2008 meeting of the foundation board reveal that "Dr. Brown was spearheading the finalisation of a 'multi-year Henderson agreement'".

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