Former Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested recently the government is keeping secret the details of its settlements in various cases to avoid influencing negotiations relating to pending settlements.
“I suppose one can say for most things in public life, the public has a right to know and governments exercise their judgments, particularly if there are other such matters in the making like, for example, there’s another egregious case with (former Cabinet minister) Ken Dorsett that they entered a nolle prosequi on, and so the government, I guess, being aware that there are other pending matters of that kind, would have made the judgment that at this stage, they did not want to influence any other development along similar lines of people who have been harmed, and who have legitimate claim for damages,” said Christie, who was answering a reporter’s question on whether the government should make public settlements it reached with individuals like now-Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander.
Christie indicated his expectation is that eventually the settlement details will be revealed, and focused on what he called “political prosecutions” that occurred under the Minnis administration when three former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) parliamentarians — Dorsett, Shane Gibson and Frank Smith — were brought on corruption charges.
“…I am sure that they (the government) must know that nothing done in the dark ever misses coming to light, and so they know that and Brave Davis as prime minister is fully aware of that, and so, I have no doubt whatsoever that in the fullness of time they are going to address the issues relevant to the prosecution of those political personalities that was one of the most extraordinary decisions a government could make, particularly when they now demonstrate that they did not have the evidence to justify the decision-making, and so, quite frankly, it is something I think we have not heard the last of and you can expect that this has some connection with something else.”
Expanding on his point, the former prime minister said, “I have no doubt that this is connected with an overall strategy to do with legal reasoning on how one conducts oneself when there are other similar matters to be dealt with and that could have an impact on those matters, and so, I have no doubt that this is a matter that will cause no concern to the government and that in fact in the fullness of time they will be able to explain their position and that is how it should be.”
The Nassau Guardian reported in March that the government reached a settlement with Gibson, who was minister of labor and national insurance in the last Christie Cabinet. He sued for malicious prosecution and unlawful arrest after he was acquitted on corruption charges in 2019.
Gibson’s attorney revealed to The Nassau Guardian that the settlement was $2.5 million, but the government itself did not disclose an amount.
Dorsett, the former minister for the environment, whose corruption case was discontinued in March, sued the government for malicious prosecution and unlawful arrest.
There is an expectation that the government will also settle with both Dorsett and Smith, the former PLP senator and former chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority.
Several weeks ago, the government also reached settlements with Fernander and the now-Deputy Commissioner Leamond Deleveaux before they took up their posts.
The men, who were placed on leave by the Minnis administration in 2019 and later reassigned to government departments, filed suits.
The lawsuit filed by Assistant Commissioner of Police Ken Strachan is pending.
The Davis administration also reached an agreement with Financial Secretary Simon Wilson, who was sent on leave by the Minnis administration.
Last month, the Office of the Attorney General and lawyers for former Bahamas Power and Light Executive Chairperson Darnell Osborne and former board members Nicola Thompson and Nick Dean, reached tentative settlements.
The details in that regard have not been made public.
While Christie indicated an expectation that the government will eventually make details public, this is not what has been expressed by some members of the Davis administration.
Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe said in Parliament recently that if the government disclosed the sums paid out in settlements, it could hamper negotiations in future settlements.
“It is disingenuous to suggest that The Bahamas government, [which] is an entity most sued in the court, would disclose the level of settlements that we are entering into to provide fodder for people to say, ‘When I negotiate with you, now I know that he got X, so you have to pay me X plus’,” Munroe said.
“It is not wise. It is not a sensible way to do business.”
This contradicted a position Munroe publicly expressed in 2018 that secret agreements potentially expose the public purse to abuse.
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Myles LaRoda said in the House of Assembly recently that revealing settlement amounts could make individuals targets for criminals.