WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1: One of the men at the centre of a row over the use of public funds has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Pastor Leroy Bean said he had been asked to investigate the operations of the Bermuda Land Development Company as the quango’s deputy chairman.
He says the arrangement was in line with the BLDC’s bye-laws and he “never for a second” considered it to be a conflict of interest.
Pastor Bean told the Bermuda Sun he had no intention of giving back the money he was paid — as recommended in a special report by the Auditor General — because it would be an admission of wrongdoing.
Meanwhile Derrick Burgess, the minister who was responsible for the BLDC, backed Mr Bean and said that the payment of consultancy fees was a matter for the BLDC board; he said he had taken no part in the decision. Mr Burgess also spoke of his role in the cheque fraud saga. He cited an email sent to the Attorney General pledging that neither he nor Dr Ewart Brown would personally benefit from court action.
‘We didn’t break any rules’
“I have done nothing wrong.”
That’s the unequivocal message from Pastor Leroy Bean, one of the men at the centre of a dispute over the use of public funds.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Bean told us: “I was asked to do a job of investigating the workings of the Bermuda Land Development Company and I did it to the best of my ability”.
Mr Bean, who was deputy chairman of the BLDC, along with the chairman received $160,000 in ‘consultancy fees’ for completing a review of finances and overall management of the company.
Last week, in a special report, Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews said the arrangement was a “fundamental conflict of interest” and said the actions of both men represented “a breach of their fiduciary duty”.
But Mr Bean told the Sun that the arrangement was in line with the byelaws of the company and he never believed for one minute there was a conflict of interest in what he and the chairman were doing.
He said: “There was no breach of the BLDC’s code of conduct in this situation and there was no breach of the company’s bye-laws by this arrangement.”
Pastor Bean refutes the notion that public funds were misused. He said: “I never viewed this money as consultancy fees.
“The job we were asked to do — investigate the workings of this government company — was done as part of our roles as chairman and deputy chairman.
“I did not view myself as a consultant at any time.”
The Auditor General’s report states that in December 2010 the Finance Minister, Paula Cox, recommended that the chairman and deputy chairman vacate their positions with immediate effect.
It further states that the two men refused to leave their positions.
Mr Bean said: “I must state categorically that I never refused to leave my position.
“I was asked by the primary minister [Derrick Burgess] to continue the job that I had been put there to do which was to investigate the BLDC and bring order to a government company that had been run like an individual’s private company.
“I did the job that I was asked to do to the best of my ability. Myself and the chairman worked hard and put in many hours.
“I never thought that there was a conflict of interest. I would never have got involved for a second if I believed there was a conflict of any description.
“The Bermuda public needed to know the truth about what was going on in the BLDC and that is why we prepared a report.
“What is interesting to note is that the Auditor General’s office had been involved in auditing the accounts of the BLDC previously. We were told to look into inconsistencies that had been overlooked.”
Mr Bean added: “We never hid any documentation from the Auditor General — she did not have to find anything because it was all there in black and white.
“I have no intention of paying the money back that I was paid as that would show I have done something wrong. And I have not done anything wrong.”
Mr Bean questioned whether the special report provided a “neutral” version of events. He added: “I want to state that I do have respect for the Auditor General’s department. I deem it as a crucial position for keeping watch over the country’s financial affairs and to facilitate proper stewardship of the public purse.
“It is also just as important that the Auditor General department be seen to be neutral in its investigations so in effect it must judge every case based on the merit of its findings in the investigation.
“The Auditor General is accountable to the public for releasing not just parts of the information but all of the facts.”
Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews is off the island. We reached out to her office for comment yesterday but received no reply by press time.