Civil servant seeks $750k for minister’s crude joke

| 23/10/2023 | 235 Comments
Cayman News Service
Culture Minister Bernie Bush

(CNS): Bernie Bush, the minister for youth, sports and culture, has issued a written apology to a well-known female public servant over a dirty joke he made to her, which she has said left her shocked and upset. Despite the written apology, the woman is seeking CI$750,000 in financial compensation from the government over the incident and what she alleges is the poor management of it by officials.

The local woman said Bush told the joke and pointed at his crotch as he did so, which happened in the Government Administration Building on 28 February, when civil servants were taking pictures in preparation for International Women’s Day a week later.

She has stated that over the months since the incident, she has suffered increasing stress and anxiety, impacting all aspects of her life. She claims that Bush’s verbal apology was given in anger and it then took several more weeks for her to get a written apology, which she received in May.

However, she later concluded that this was insufficient and that more action should be taken by the government. She told CNS that not only should perpetrators of this type of harassment be made to pay for the anxiety they cause women at work, but that she should be compensated for the victim blaming and shaming she claims has followed since she complained to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson about the minister’s behaviour.

Given the allegation of victim blaming, CNS is not identifying the woman.

Minister Bush told CNS he accepted that he had told the “off-colour, silly joke” to the civil servant, whom he knows well. In his letter of apology, he had said it was unprofessional but was intended as a joke and meant no harm. He said he never imagined she would have been offended because he had told the joke many times over the years to her and to many other women.

But he accepted it was inappropriate at the time, so he apologised directly to her when she said she had been upset and again later in writing. He said that, given the turn of events, he couldn’t say more at this time but would be commenting in full during next month’s parliamentary meeting.

Last year, Bush was placed on two weeks unpaid leave and fired from the Ministry of Home Affairs after he was accused of interfering with the recruitment of the chief fire officer as well as for other inappropriate comments to civil servants, which the premier found had breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct. Officials have confirmed that since then and until now, no other formal complaints have been received about Bush.

Speaking to CNS this weekend, the woman said the situation had been handled poorly after Bush gave an angry, reluctant apology, followed several weeks later by a far from genuine written apology. Although she has not said Bush should have been fired from Cabinet, she believes there should be further sanctions. As a result, she made a decision to take further action and, ultimately, the request for compensation.

Her letter requesting the money, which CNS acquired as a result of it circulating on social media, was addressed to the Office of the Premier. It outlines her side of the events surrounding this incident, her past trauma, past experience with workplace sexual harassment and her concerns that Bush has a history of making inappropriate jokes and comments and he was not being held to account.

She said that the minister’s joke “at her expense” came at a time when she believed she had moved forward with her past traumas, but this set her back far more than she could have anticipated. As a result, she has returned to counselling and has incurred the expense of a lawyer she hired to protect her interests, which is why she is seeking financial compensation.

She told CNS that, several years ago, she endured serious and sustained sexual harassment from a supervisor in another government job, which took almost three years to resolve in her favour after the perpetrator was fired.

This had caused significant stress, she said, and going through the same situation again, she knew she needed an attorney. But she said it has also triggered emotional issues relating back to childhood trauma and threatened her many years of sobriety after battling addiction.

She had returned to regular counselling to help her navigate the resurgence of anxiety and emotional trauma, compounded by Bush’s efforts to shift the blame onto her for being offended, she said, noting that she may need to continue this counselling indefinitely, which could prove very costly — all as a result of the poor joke.

The joke was certainly poor. Bush had asked the government employee to lend him $5 so he could replace the condoms he bought the previous evening because they were too big for him.

In the first instance, the woman had complained directly to DG Manderson, who is head of the civil service, who informed Premier Wayne Panton. Bush immediately gave the apology, but the woman claims this was made under duress.

In response to our request for comment, Panton said that each time this matter was brought to his attention — in February, in May and again in August — either he or someone acting on his behalf addressed the issue.

“In February, I received a verbal briefing on the matter. I then spoke with the Minister and understood that he had apologised and the issue had been resolved,” Panton said. “On 4 May, during my absence, the Hon Deputy Premier was advised by the head of the civil service that the said employee had expressed her dissatisfaction with the Minister’s earlier verbal apology. Following this advice, the Deputy Premier contacted Senior Staff in my office to assist in having a written apology provided to the employee. I was briefed on the matter by the Deputy Premier via a phone call.”

The premier said that he had received written confirmation from his office later that evening that the employee was satisfied with the outcome and the way in which the matter was handled. “In late August, I again received indication of dissatisfaction and, for the first time, a written complaint from the employee. She received a response within a week,” he stated.

“For the good of all the parties involved and given the sensitive nature of the matter, I continue to exercise restraint in my comments,” the premier added.

In a statement to the Cayman Compass on Friday, Manderson stressed that the responsibility for overseeing ministers’ behaviour lies with the premier.

“I can verify that any concerns brought to my attention regarding Ministers’ conduct have been forwarded to the Premier. I can also affirm that the Premier has taken these reports seriously and handled them appropriately,” he stated. “As Head of the Civil Service, I am responsible for the welfare of staff. This responsibility is something carried out diligently and promptly.”

Meanwhile, the government has presented the Sexual Harassment Bill for public consultation, which is expected to go before parliament next month. It implies that inappropriate jokes can be sexual harassment, depending on the circumstances. “Sexual harassment encompasses a wide range of inappropriate conduct or acts including “sexual pranks… repeated sexual teasing, jokes, or innuendo”.

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Comments (235)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am just so disappointed in the women MPs. Not one (excluding the DP who got Bernie to apologize) has said anything. But I bet they will during election though. Kathy, Sabrina, Heather, Barbara…

  2. Anonymous says:

    * Yawns* Different day same $… This is probably the most conservative “joke” Bernie ever made in his life and I hope and wait patiently to see what the Premier will do about this. Wait, just kidding. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Looks like these Ministers can do what they want and get off if they “apologize”. As far as I see it, Wayne is just as bad if all he can do is get Bernie to say “oops sorry”. Yall think its a coincidence that this sexual harassment bill hasn’t been passed yet? But it might be ignored by “leaders” just like their code of conduct. #Disgusted

  3. Patricia Bryan says:

    @2:43 p.m. Thanks for the clarification. I used that phrase to mean accept defeat in/quit resisting the requests of many to offer myself up for candidacy. In other words “Okay, I may as well throw the towel in and give up the fight of telling people no I do not want to or I will not…”
    When you next see Kenneth Bryan ask whether I am his sister😊😉. Let me know what he says.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I guess now we know who McKeeva passed the tiny baton to.

  5. Wa ya say says:

    Bernie’s got to go home, stay home and catch ya self in private and under house arrest. You 750 thousand lady sue him not the CI government.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Bernie is an embarrassment to his constituents and the Cayman Islands in general. How many times in one term as MP will he be reprimanded, sanctioned, have his salary docked and scolded like an immature school-aged punk? His behaviour is repugnant, and all men trying to distance themselves from this type of archaic behaviour should be outraged! He is an elected official and therefore held to a higher standard, and therefore, I agree financial penalties are justified. However, they should be levied against him directly. The court should inflict pain where it hurts most in this instance. His bank account! If he is going to use the Honourable title, then he should damn well act that way. First, there was Mckeeva Bush, a convicted violent offender with a penchant for assaulting women. Now, we have Bernie’s sexually explicit passive-aggressive advances towards women in the civil service. Can he be trusted to be alone with a woman while conducting the business of the ministry? The CO or the DG should warn all women to be on guard when around him.

    He is also the Minister for Youth. What message does this send? Shame on you, Bernie.

    WTAF will it take for these political dinosaurs to shape up or ship out? It would be nice if Wayne were to press the reset button on this band of bumbling bafoons, but it would mean siding with his former political partners, which is a bridge he is unwilling to cross at this time. I know he is thinking of his legacy and achieving the political promises made to his constituents. Unfortunately, both of those are tracking towards a spectacular disappointment given the government he has assembled. Given the constant public turmoil of his government, I would prefer to be remembered as the Premier who chose dignity over power. Food for thought, perhaps?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately these islands have more of the Bernie type parading around as “professionals” than we would care to know about. I applaud this woman, whomever she may be, for taking a stand. Whatever monetary award she receives I hope will be fairly awarded but the greatest reward is setting a precedent against such crude and unacceptable behavior, especially by those in positions of authority.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anyone else notice how the Parliament has been dumbed down over the past two cycles ? We traded good representation like Winston, Marco, Alva, Tara, Austin even Arden and Ezzard from the old school, for the current circus of a Government! Wayne Panton used his financial clout to deliver this Government. I hope the people in Newlands pay him in kind! Wayne must go he represents all that is wrong in politics. Paid yes men and women incapable of thinking for themselves and no sense of right or wrong. Wayne must go!!!

  9. Patricia Bryan says:

    Please google or Siri the words and definition of sexual harassment, or search for the Sexual Harassment Bill presently on the table by government Sexual Harassment Bill and to find the Bill. Or look up “Legal Talk with Patricia Bryan” on youtube to listen to the episode discussing the Bill.

    and for those making insensitive comments this type of contact was directed it you as a female or towards the significant female in your life as a male read the article over clearly and tell me after you think about it some more how would you feel if this was said to you or done to you under the disguise of a joke read the article to see exactly what was said and what was done. males men I know your Alpha side would be fuming. many females who have respect for themselves would feel invaded and insulted that this would be considered a joke. with all the many jokes that could be said and done in the world this conduct especially from a Minister of Government should not be jovial.

    • Anonymous says:

      What about same sex relationships Patricia? Is sexual harassment only possible between different genders?

      • Patricia Bryan says:

        @12:37pm I don’t see where the Bill distinquishes between sexes. It is the act or utterance and intent which will cause the offense (if passed). That is my interpretation.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Don’t hold your breath that ANYONE is going to resign.
    These people are unemployables who have latched on to the Giving Tree of income and benefits beyond their wildest dreams.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Glad to know you will enter the race Patricia…not because you will be representing women, but because you will bring an air of principled duty to your community.
    Don’t run as an independent, because we have all seen too clearly the consequences of leaderless individuals pulling in different directions. Ally yourself with those whom society recognizes as having the best interests of Caymsn, not just themselves.

    • Patricia Bryan says:

      @9:11 a.m. Thank you sincerely for the support of confidence. I wish I knew who you are. Sounds as though you know me well. Thanks you.

      I see the 5 thumbs down already and I haven’t said I actually will run 🙂. People already disliking me, or the potential of me as a candidate? 🤷‍♀️

  12. Patricia Bryan says:

    Looks like it may be time after all for me to throw in the towel and declare my candidacy for elections in 2025 and hopefully I’ll be the voice of women; to not be afraid to do what the rest of the world is doing in every other jurisdictions–and that is giving voice to these types of conducts and behaviors.

    Without directly criticizing the government or the head of the Civil Service unapologetically this situation was not handled appropriately. Had these behaviors been directed towards a female member –especially a close female member such as a daughter, wife, sister, mother–is the circumstances of how it would have been handled would have been different we can almost be sure of this. We cannot be an island who has tabled a Bill to outlaw sexual harassment in any and all forms yet to condone such behaviors from whomever high-ranking officials. I can’t apologize for not agreeing it was appropriate that a written and verbal apology was extended. Even if the victim felt that that was sufficient as a leader of government and the Civil Service of the actions should have been taken. Remember whose signatures went behind the Sexual Harassment Bill and stand on the front line for that. We have a Constitution which includes The Bill of [human] Rights that can greatly apply to the situation. There are female members in the legislation whom haven’t spoken out for whatever reason. I am dumbfounded by this. Are they not permitted under regulations? Words can be spoken to support zero tolerance to this type of behavior without mentioning someone’s name. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I can look around and see a member of government with these allegations behind them is still able to stand in office. I don’t care who he is he should step down it’s a national embarrassment. Are people really stopping and playing this scanerio out in their minds? Because people on the outside are looking and saying “oh the Cayman Islands they accept any old thing; their governments are laughing stock”. T
    his is no insult to any particular person within the government and just in a whole with these types of allegations. In this arena it is a one size fits all. Governments are supposed to protect the victim. She did not cry wolf these are not false allegations; they’re admitted conduct. I’m sorry to say that the person who conducted the behavior should be the one to actually offer to step down out of sheer barrassment and shame. What will our female athletes think and feel now that this is out? What an example for our young men. Not sorry to have to be the one to say it. We can no longer stand for this type of behavior. #WeAreTired #TheBillIsNotEnough

    • Anonymous says:

      If your platform and intention is to enforce the maintenance law without women needing to continuously go to court, repeatedly. Easiest way for you to get the female vote.

      • Patricia Bryan says:

        9:33 am. it would be one of my intentions if I was running is to have the Judiciary Implement a system where it could automatically track default payments and after a certain amount automatically bring those non-compliance pays back to court. I was very instrumental in getting the laws changed which brought about the children’s law by way of Mr Kurt Tibbetts and Alden McLaughlin filing a motion which was unanimously passed to review the maintenance and affiliation law. one of the issues was erasing the distinction between children born in wedlock compared to children born out of wedlock and the ability to bring cases to maintenance court. of course someone will jump on this bag when I can or I’m hoping that they may.

      • Patricia Bryan says:

        if I were running it would be my intention too encourage the Judiciary to implement a system where after a certain period of time has passed for non-payment compliance the system would automatically bring those cases back to court. I was very instrumental in having the maintenance and affiliation laws reviewed back in the early 2000s where the honorable Kurt to bits and Alden McLaughlin brought a motion and my behalf to the parliament which passed unanimously to review the laws. one of the distinctions I was concerned about was the difference between children born in red lock and out of red lock and their ability and access to maintenance for illegitimate and legitimate children across the board. that was the start of the new children’s law. child support mentee and answers something I have strongly advocated for just as strong as landlord and tenant reform.

        • Anonymous says:

          you added in the landlord tenant reform at the end. That’s going to stall your campaign. Caymanian mainly are landlords and older ones are landlords. There’s some young and this is the livelihood for many that are retired. Making the landlord tenant law in favour of the tenant will significantly increase rent. Because if you can’t get a tenant out, at least charge them massively up front.

          Also do not follow the Canadian landlord tenant law where the tenant has more rights than the landlord/owner.

          • Patricia Bryan says:

            10:28 am I didn’t draft the present Residential Tenancies Act, 2009, nor have input. I did give input for amendments as any public person can. I’m not sure where the understanding is that tenants will be favored over landlords, but I didn’t nor intended to convey that. I would recommend getting the Act and or waiting for the public consultation paper period to happen. Then fact is is that just as many tenants are being taken advantage of by landlords as are landlords being taken advantage of. I think the Act as fair across the board.

        • Wa ya say says:

          Hey young lady use spell check please . Continue in faith. Represent!

          • Wha Ya Mean says:

            there’s no spell check when typing on CNS comments. there is smart phone error though. the young lady you should know though is very intelligent and can spell trust me.

          • Patricia Bryan says:

            @Wa ya say Smart phones don’t always type out what we select to type 😉😇. I know you know what I meant though 😉😇. I will try to slow down 💪🙂; often times I become passionate in commenting.

            It is always good to read your comments.
            Thank you for your remarks too.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which constituency will you be running in?

    • Anonymous says:

      Not “one size fits all?”

      Agreed. That appears to be exactly what got us in this mess!

    • Anonymous says:

      “Throw in the towel” is a term used to admit defeat, to give up. It comes from Boxing when a losing boxer’s trainer throws a towel into the ring, signifying his boxer is unable to continue….Are you related to Kenneth Bryan ..?

    • Anonymous says:

      Another self promoter for government position, catch up!
      It is 35 years since sexual harassment was first recognised as a form of workplace discrimination under UK law, through a landmark legal ruling in 1986.

      • Patricia Bryan says:

        @6:06 pm. Someone sharing what they have done too help their people and society is not necessarily self promotion. It is sharing information.
        Speak to post and present MPs as to why the Cayman Islands are just now tabling a sexual harassment bill when the UK put something in place since 1986. Societal issues are always at the end of the line for recognition. We see the Bill out now yet here we have this article. Why? Because governments (not just this government) are partial. Pay attention please.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Throw in the towel” means to quit.

      • Anonymous says:

        “Throw your hat in the ring” means to accept the challenge to run in the next election, but not “throw in the towel”, which does mean to bow out.

    • Anonymous says:

      @7:48 Maybe while you are at it, you can ask Kenneth to throw in the towel too.. (which by the means to step away)

      You sound just like him, saying everything to make everybody believe you would do something but it is nothing more than political posturing to get elected and just like him power will go to your head and everything you say becomes promises to a fool and then the stupidity and arrogance come in to play.

      No one needs to get elected to be make a difference. Be an advocate for change if that is what you really want. I have never seen a politician get elected and do even 10% of what they promised.

      Everyone, just like you wants to get elected, wants to sit in Cabinet where the big money and perks are and then you conveniently forget about the people that put you there for four years and then you come back four years later hoping or should I say knowing, that most people will forget and only remember the turkeys and hams or the shiny new washing machine that your politician just bought them. Caymanians have always been to passive and forgiving. We need to get some backbone when it comes to these things.

      With the high salaries that the politicians are paid in this country, their only focus should be on bettering people’s lives and ensuring the financial viability of our country. Almost every one of them have other jobs or commitments and couldn’t care less about their constituents. Some of them can’t remember where their constituency office is and if they do they may spend maybe a half a day there. If you want a second job then the law should change that your pay is reduced as we elected you to do a full time job.

      We need statesmen and stateswomen again. People that work for country and not the love of money or power. We need a recall law and term limits. Until we have those two the pool of candidates remains infested or corrupted by those who still carry the influence and by those companies that poor money into election campaign so they can buy the politicians vote once elected.

      I’m sick and tired of hearing the same old story about I’m running for office and this is what I’m going to do. If you haven’t lived by example or proven yourself worthy or accomplished or at the very least shown some competency and basic understanding of what is necessary to run a country, don’t come asking for my vote.

      One last thing, one man, one vote has got to go. I’m tired of having to vote for the lesser of evils or knowing that my vote will be nothing more than a protest vote because some politician has a majority of family members or favored groups/nationalities in his constituency that will always vote for him. Further, the practice of running candidates that you know won’t get elected but will split the vote to ensure someone else gets elected is another of my pet peeves with this law. The districts are just too small to avoid this type of corruption..

      Okay that’s my little two cents for. Sunday morning and before any of you comment I’m neither PPM or PACT.. I’m like 7-UP.. never have and never will..

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