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2005-12-06 17:51:04

Bahamas Telecommunications Company CEO Removed

Symonette suspended after refusing to accommodate meddling by Minister Bradley Roberts.

Bahamas Telecommunications Company CEO and president Michael Symonette has been removed from his post, allegedly for failing to comply with a direct order from Works and Utilities Minister Bradley Roberts, a source close to BTC claimed last night.

Minister Roberts said yesterday he was aware that the BTC board was planning to take action against Mr Symonette, but emhasised that it was the board's decision.

"They have that power," he said.

He also said that Mr Symonette told him that he was eager to resign "to which I told him, my brother, do so, do so."

However, according to a source, Mr Symonette was asked by Minister Roberts to resign, but refused to do so.

According to the source, Mr Symonette yesterday received a letter from BTC board chairman Reno Brown, ordering him to take a paid leave of absence until the dispute between himself, the board and the minister had been settled. He was told to vacate his office immediately on receipt of Mr Brown's letter. The letter was received yesterday and Mr Symonette stepped down.

The order, it was claimed, came on the heels of Mr Symonette refusing to withdraw the suspension of BTC senior vice president Leon Williams.

However, Minister Roberts said that Mr Symonette's refusal to withdraw the suspension was only a "minor part" of the reason for the board to ask for the CEO to take his leave.

Mr Roberts said that he did not wish to disclose the main reason for Mr Symonette's dismissal at this point in time.

He emphasised that Mr Symonette was only a "retiree whose services are required by the company on a month-to-month basis."

Mr Roberts said he thinks it likely that the situation will eventually lead to BTC deciding not to renew Mr Symonette's contract for the next month.

It is understood that Mr Symonette suspended Mr Williams for seven days without pay in September when he considered that Mr Williams had exceeded his authority in making certain decisions in Bimini without reference to either himself or the board. The decisions arose out of the laying of a multi-million-dollar fibre optic cable project for the Family Islands.

The project, valued at $6 million, included the laying of a fibre optic submarine cable between Grand Bahama and Bimini to replace the capacity exhausted forward scatter tropo microwave system.

The new cable is designed for the installation of GSM cellular technology, DSL high-speed Internet services to better serve the telecommunications needs of the residents of Bimini.

According to the source, Mr Symonette thoroughly investigated Mr Williams' conduct on the project and decided, on the evidence collected, that the senior vice president made crucial decisions without informing the BTC board or Mr Symonette beforehand - as procedure requires.

As a result, Mr Symonette ordered Mr Williams to be suspended for seven days without pay. It is claimed that following this order, Minister Roberts telephoned Mr Symonette to ask him to withdraw the suspension.

Mr Symonette reviewed the suspension, but decided he had made the right decision and, under the circumstances, had acted properly. He did not withdraw the suspension.

Several days ago, according to the source, Mr Williams sent a note to Mr Roberts, notifying him that Mr Symonette had not withdrawn his suspension. It is understood that Mr Williams also made other allegations against Mr Symonette.

It is claimed that Minister Roberts then sent an e-mail to Mr Symonette instructing him to remove the suspension from Mr Williams' file with immediate effect. It is understood that Mr Symonette declined to do so, confident that he had acted correctly in the Williams case. Minister Roberts is then alleged to have told Mr Symonette that as he had not followed instructions, he would like his resignation. Mr Symonette refused to hand in a resignation letter.

Yesterday Mr Symonette received a letter from BTC board chairman Reno Brown stating that he should take unpaid leave until the dispute between the board, Mr Symonette and Mr Williams could be resolved.
However, it is claimed that Mr Symonette was unaware that there had been a dispute with the board.
Mr Symonette packed his belongings and left his office yesterday. This is the second time that Mr Symonette has been dismissed by a PLP government. The first time was in 1992 before the general elections when the FNM was returned as the new government.

Source: The Triibune - Nassau, Bahamas

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