Butler-Turner says Gibson’s resignation is in order
By Candia Dames/ Editor NASSAU GUARDIAN
The decision by Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Michael Pintard not to ask Long Island MP Adrian Gibson to resign his seat in Parliament so that he can focus fully on his legal troubles and divert unneeded distraction away from the party reflects poorly on Pintard’s leadership, former Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner told National Review.
Gibson was arraigned last week on multiple charges concerning allegedly corrupt actions while he served as executive chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) under the Minnis administration.
“I believe that the leader has got to support his member in every which way that the party can, but I do not believe that he should support him in the position of remaining an MP while he’s dealing with this legal battle,” said Butler-Turner, who was contacted by National Review and asked her view on the matter.
“You know, quite frankly, they do need to support him; he’s one of theirs. He’s family, as they say. You don’t know where they’re going to have to assist, but at the end of the day, the party leader needs to make a determination that this is not just a reflection right now on Mr. Gibson. This is a reflection on the type of leadership that he will have if he ever takes the reins of power.
“If he were the leader of the country and he took this position, this would not be looked upon well. He is the leader in waiting. He cannot change principles based on where he’s at.
“He wants to lead this country so he’s got to demonstrate astute leadership at this point.”
Shortly after Gibson was charged in court with abusing his power while serving as executive chairman of the corporation, Pintard said the party “stands in solidarity” with him.
“Mr. Gibson is first and foremost a member in good standing with the Free National Movement and is also an active and important member of our parliamentary caucus,” Pintard said in a statement.
“We in the Free National Movement stand in solidarity with Mr. Gibson and believe that, according to the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, he is innocent until proven guilty and that he is entitled to due process and a fair trial.
“The FNM will, therefore, work to ensure that Mr. Gibson’s rights are observed and not abused and we remain resolute in our position that at the end of this process, justice and truth shall prevail.”
Responding to Pintard’s statement, Butler-Turner said: “My question would then be that’s all well and good, and I think that you are supposed to stand with your team in adversity.
“I mean, it would be wrong to abandon that, but does that necessarily mean that because you’re asking them to stand down so that they can give the best opportunity for themselves to have a fair and just trial without the distraction of having to still perform effectively, is that a good argument? I’m just asking.”
When asked what her answer is to that question, she responded, “I know that there are a lot of charges and while one is not guilty until a trial has been adjudicated [and one is found to be guilty] at the end of the day, you would want that person to put their energies into clearing their name and vindicating themselves, and I believe that that is going to be an onerous task on Gibson to balance that as well as be an effective member of Parliament.”
We also asked Butler-Turner whether she thinks it’s fair to constituents that Gibson seemingly intends to stay on.
She responded, “Under our system of governance, the Westminster system, precedence has been set that when such allegations are made or such charges – because these aren’t [just] allegations any more – these are now charges, most persons would step down.
“Obviously, depending on how long or whenever this trial is scheduled, that would then leave a vacancy and lead to a by-election, but if he’s vindicated can’t he come back?”
We pointed out to her that a by-election would already have been held and the seat filled.
Butler-Turner said, “There will be other openings. He would then be a champion if he’s vindicated. It may not be that constituency but there [are] always options.”
She added, “I think that history will judge the current leader, Mr. Pintard, on this stance that he has taken.
“Truly, you know, one can be supportive even in adversity, but one does not have to leave this burden on the people whom the MP represents. That’s a dark cloud now over that particular constituency and that MP.”
No interest in running
Butler-Turner served as the MP for Long Island from 2012 to 2017. For most of that term, she was also deputy leader of the Free National Movement, and served briefly as leader of the official opposition.
In 2017, she ran as an independent, capturing just 15 percent of the votes in Long Island.
Gibson, at the time a 32-year-old newcomer to politics, won on the FNM’s ticket with 53 percent of the votes. The Progressive Liberal Party’s candidate Glendon Rolle received 32 percent of the votes.
In 2021, despite controversy that ensnared Gibson in the lead-up to the general election, he won again by an even bigger margin – 55 percent of the votes (728 of the 1,326 votes cast.)
Butler-Turner did not make another bid for the seat.
The PLP’s Long Island candidate Tyrel Young got 43 percent of the votes.
Though his margin was only slightly higher in 2021 than in 2017, Gibson was the only FNM incumbent who actually gained support in the most recent election when compared to 2017.
Then-FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis went from 73 percent of the votes in Killarney in 2017 to 51 percent in 2021.
Gibson returned to the House of Assembly two days after he was charged in court.
Under House of Assembly rules, if he stays away for 90 days, his seat would become vacant.
His seat would also become vacant under the constitution if he is convicted and sentenced to a period exceeding 12 months.
Many observers believe he should go now. Others opine that Gibson should not have to as he is presumed to be innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.
Talk of a possible by-election in Long Island – the only Family Island seat the PLP has never won (reference being to the full island as one seat) – has grown louder since Gibson was charged in court last week.
Not surprisingly, there have been rumors that Butler-Turner would run again – perhaps even on the PLP’s ticket.
As a current consultant for the Water and Sewerage Corporation, she is clearly in the good graces of the PLP administration.
While chatting with Butler-Turner about the Gibson matter, we asked her to respond to individuals who would accuse her of speaking out of self-interest.
She responded, “First of all, I just went to the grave of my husband. I am still grieving the death of my husband. I said from 2017 I’m out of frontline politics.
“I have no interest in re-entering frontline politics and at the end of the day, my actions will speak, that I, Loretta Butler-Turner, absolutely and unequivocally am not interested in running in any election, by-election, general election, anything.
“I have maintained a status now where I am going to serve my country in whatever capacity is possible or serve my people even in a private capacity; so, no, I’m not interested. I have not been to Long Island in over two years when I visited a private cay off Long Island …
“I’m very much trying to keep my family together since the death of my husband. I had no inclination before my husband’s death; he was my biggest supporter and cheerleader and I definitely have no inclination now. My time is devoted totally to my family.”
Butler-Turner’s husband, Edward Turner, an attorney, died in March.
In responding to questions put to her by National Review, the former Long Island MP also stressed that she and the board of the Water and Sewerage Corporation had no involvement in the matter that eventually led to charges being brought against the former executive chairman and six others, including former WSC General Manager Elwood Donaldson, Jr.
“While I am a consultant, that investigation was totally independent,” she said.
“When that audit report [into WSC] was done, it was not shared with the board. That was something put directly in the hands of police. That had nothing to do with the board at Water and Sewerage. That was an internal audit done and that audit has not formally been shared with our board.
“The first time we got wind of that was when someone [from the media published something]. While we are implementing effective corporate governance, that audit was totally internal and, unfortunately, leaked, but that went [directly] to the police.”