After Hope Town District Council Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting made public his employer’s change of policy regarding his time off to deal with local government matters, Senator Gary Sawyer, part-owner of Abaco Petroleum, defended his decision.
The issue that precipitated the change came about when the Hope Town District Council received a cut to their budget and Mr. Sweeting held a press conference in in which he called the cuts “the biggest and gravest crisis since the inception of local government.”
Mr. Sawyer said “Jeremy talked to me about it, when he told me he was going to have this press conference about the budget cut, I said “Jeremy, you don’t need to do that. It will be resolved. Government is not going to discontinue paying for garbage.”
“I told Jeremy ‘you don’t need to go through that.’ But nobody could convince Jeremy otherwise and he went ahead with it.”
Mr. Sawyer explained that certain portions of waste management will be dealt with by Central Government because there had been noted cases of abuse of public funds. So Central Government decided that everything outside of garbage collection will be dealt with like it used to be by the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) which will go out to tender.
“My office has been kind enough for eight years to fund his campaigns, no matter who the government was, and he couldn’t listen to one simple thing I asked him not to do,” Mr. Sawyer said. “It wasn’t necessary.”
He added that he is a declared shareholder of the barging company, Abacays, and local government owes them about $70,000 which goes all the way back to 2009, which Jeremy, as Chief Councillor is responsible for.
Mr. Sawyer said that money allocated in their budget that is assigned for specific contracts takes precedent over any other pet project they may have. “The removal of garbage is an essential service.”
He doesn’t want the public to think he is being mean or ticked off with local government; “I’m ticked off at the way things were done. They were not done in the right context and I will never again support him in local government financially or time-wise.”
Mr. Sawyer said the only way he will be allowed time to deal with local government matter is if a government minister is visiting. “If he could do that to me he can use his Saturday’s and Sunday’s to deal with local government. Not on my time.”
He said “Everyone who knows me knows I believe in local government; I still do. And I supported Jeremy from day one; even funded his election campaigns. Abaco Petroleum, I’m willing to bet, has put more money into local government than anyone else outside of the government.”
He said Jeremy has “never lost one day’s wage from work to deal with local government – whether it was three or four days in the week, or even off to a conference. No matter what Jeremy’s pay was never touched.”
“All the equipment at Abaco Petroleum, whether it was faxes, computers, printers, paper – the whole nine yards – really acted as a local government office for years and until now,” Mr. Sawyer said.
He said his staff has even taken abuse for local government; people have come to the door raving at them and finally they had to put up a sign that says “This is not a local government office”.
We know central government doesn’t move as quickly as we do, but it’s being dealt with. I was working on it behind the scenes.