The Local Government Council has once again been marred by scandal as Chief Councillor Kendal Culmer and Island Administrator Preston Cunningham engaged in a heated debate regarding the recent transference of funds from the agency’s current account to a reserve account, during a meeting held this past Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
Tensions were elevated as both Administrator Cunningham and Chief Councillor Culmer attempted to have the other listen to their point of view on the matter; however, to no avail.
The situation rapidly grew worse becoming fodder for social media fire. The Freeport News team sought insight and clarification regarding the exchange from both Chief Councillor Culmer and Administrator Cunningham, who each shared their own perspective into the ordeal.
According to Chief Councillor Culmer, “The Facebook post involving the Local Government Council and a debate that occurred between myself and Administrator Cunningham certainly leaves much to be desired in terms of the facts, as it contains numerous errors.
“Administrator Cunningham and I engaged in a debate, which evidently had nothing to do with the transference of funds per se, but instead the events that transpired leading up to and following the action.
“Personally, I believe there was deception involved on behalf of (Administrator Cunningham), who (utilized his position) to manipulate the entire process (as far as the transfer is concerned),” Culmer alleged.
“While I would prefer not to disclose too much regarding the matter as it will be under investigations and information presented to the Permanent Secretary as well as the Minister of Local Government, I want to state that the funds were for the
use of the Local Government Council to repair the recreational parks on Grand Bahama.
“The former Central Government administration put the funds in place so that the repairs could be carried out in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew; however, the new administration was elected to office and that is when I found out that the funds had been transferred to New Providence by Administrator Cunningham.”
The Freeport News team learned that it was at this point, the former Chief Councillor Frazette Gibson asked Administrator Cunningham why were the funds transferred (as it was requested during her term to carry out the repairs), to which he replied that once the funds are not spent during the time allotted, by law it had to be returned.
Apparently, the explanation did not sit well with Chief Councillor Culmer, who went on to reveal, “Once I came into office he (Administrator Cunningham) presented a document to put that which is supposed to be our reserve funds in another account and during the meeting he made it appear as though I signed the document for the funds from the previous administration to be sent to New Providence and that was false,” claimed Culmer. “It was at this point that I indicated that he manipulated the process.
“Again, a heated debate ensued and words were exchanged by both sides; however, not in a disrespectful manner and we just hope that at the end of the day the Local Government Council would be allowed to perform its duties as we were so elected to do,” Culmer explained.
In stark contrast to the statements issued by the Chief Councillor, Administrator Cunningham alleged that the behavior displayed, during the meeting by Culmer was, “repugnant and completely unprofessional.”
Asserting the fact that he has gone beyond the call of duty to assist the newly elected Local Government Council members, Administrator Cunningham stated, “The law requires that at the end of a financial year, unexpended funds must be transferred to the reserve account and to do so we would have prepared a letter signed by myself and Chief Councillor Culmer with respect to the amount of the funds.
“The contents of the letter with respect to what was being done had been explained to Chief Councillor Culmer in the presence of my accountants and both of us signed the document; now it is strange that all of a sudden he is pretending as though I caused him to sign.
“Chief Councillor Culmer is a grown man and had he thought that the contents of the letter was something he could not support, he most certainly could have refused to do so,” Cunningham maintained.
“However, I do not understand that a man such as himself, who claims to be a professional would sign the document then double-back and try to have people believe that he was falsely coerced to do so.”
Claiming that he is sorely disappointed with the behavior of Chief Councillor Culmer, Administrator Cunningham declared that in all his time in the public service, which spans 46 years, he has never faced any situation as appalling as such.
The administrator maintains that Chief Councillor Culmer has a very arrogant attitude and that during the meeting, he had to ask him to withdraw a few of the statements he made as they were uncalled for and completely disrespectful.
Frustrated beyond belief with the demeanor of the Chief Councillor, Administrator Cunningham claimed, he was forced to leave the meeting as he could no longer tolerate the disrespect cast against him by Culmer.
“I have no intention of tolerating the lack of respect and professionalism displayed by the Chief Councillor, neither his lack of honesty and blatant deceit.
“Personally, I have ensured that each elected Local Government Councilman received a copy of the Local Government Act along with all the amendments as well as the Procedural Manuel for Local Government Practitioners to ensure that they know the rules by heart and are able to govern themselves accordingly.
“For those who do not want to adhere to my advice they would be the downfall of the institution which would be most unfortunate for the people whom they have sworn to serve.
“Thank God I have a copy of the letter and he could not deny any further that he did not provide his signature or was made perfectly aware of the letters contents and the rules regarding the same.”