Cost of Premier’s support staff over $230,000
A team of five people supporting the Premier and his family costs more than $230,000, it was revealed yesterday.
The employees at David Burt’s office and official residence include a special aide, housekeeper and babysitter.
Costs for two of them amounted to $233,525.73; others were paid on a weekly or monthly basis, and one was said to be seconded from the Department of Child and Family Services.
The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question from the Opposition’s Senate leader Nick Kempe, who is also shadow finance minister.
Mr Kempe asked for information about all non-Civil Service support staff working for Mr Burt and the related costs, including political consultants and employees at the Premier’s office and official residence.
A written response to Mr Kempe’s question was tabled last week in the Senate by Vance Campbell, the junior cabinet office minister, and minutes containing the details were released.
They showed the cost for Owen Darrell, Mr Burt’s chief of staff, was $125,116.33 and for Dana Selassie, a special adviser to the Premier, the total was $108,409.40.
JeanAnne Hayward was listed as a special aide to the Premier, seconded from the child and family services department. No cost was attributed to her role.
The cost for Madree Robinson, a housekeeper and cook, was $1,312.50 a week and $1,900 a month was spent on Haley Telford, a babysitter.
A sixth person was listed in the official response but a government spokeswoman said last night that individual was not actually a member of the Premier’s personal staff.
She said: “The Office of the Premier is a virtual 24/7 operation and in order to address the significant issues that are part of the Premier’s remit, this staff is necessary.”
The spokeswoman pointed out that for the past 35 years the law has allowed premiers and Opposition leaders to “engage personal staff to assist them in the discharge of their duties”.
She added: “Ms Telford is not solely engaged as a babysitter, but assists with various matters in the running of the official home of the Premier and his family.
“She is employed Monday to Friday for 15 hours a week.
“If there is a need for childcare for any personal events, these charges are not met by the public purse, but by the Premier personally.”
Members of Parliament heard in February that four people were employed under the Premier and Opposition Leader Personal Staffs Act 1983.
Mr Burt said these included the “chief of staff and special adviser to the Premier”.
He continued: “In addition to that, there is the housekeeper, as is customary at Clifton, and also the aide to the Opposition leader.”
The House of Assembly heard Mr Darrell’s compensation at the time was $122,064 and Dr Selassie’s remuneration was $105,765.
Mr Burt said then that his chief of staff’s responsibilities included “co-ordinating the Premier’s schedule, activities and projects, and managing inquiries to the Premier from residents”.
The special adviser was said to provide “communications support”.
Mr Burt said the housekeeper, “as is customary”, was paid $35 an hour and that benefits for all the positions were in line with the Act.
He told members that Judy Benevides, the Opposition leader’s part-time aide, had a salary of $43,769.70.
A spokesman for the One Bermuda Alliance confirmed yesterday this remained the same and that Craig Cannonier, the party leader, had no other support staff.
Mr Cannonier’s personal staff salary bill was revealed to be roughly $418,000 when he was the Premier in 2013.
That included chief of staff Dale Jackson on $122,064 a year and Ms Benevides as secretary and administrative assistant, with a salary of $77,254.
Charmaine Burgess, who was his press secretary, received $113,480 annually, while special adviser Don Grearson was paid $105,765 a year.
Mr Cannonier resigned in 2014, which meant his staff became unemployed.
He was replaced by Michael Dunkley, who returned Mr Grearson on about the same pay as before and recruited Jeff Baron, a senator at the time, as a special adviser on an annual salary of $85,000.