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Belize City Mayor addresses first controversy

The newly elected Belize City Mayor Bernard Wagner is dealing with his first controversy since he took office last month. Wagner who has admitted to endorsing two cheques to himself has come under fire for doing just that. In the financial world, signing a cheque to yourself is considered unethical and as Wagner said last week, irregular. But he did it, twice. Wagner endorsed two cheques totaling about five hundred dollars used for social assistance programs. The United Democratic Party, as we said yesterday, is appalled that Wagner did such a thing. The UDP condemned the practice to its fullest extent. Wagner has accepted responsibility but this afternoon he passed some of the blame onto city council employees, saying they were late in providing guidelines in these sorts of matters.

Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “We will not go further than what we did in the past but what will happen here is that we will go by in terms of the regulation, the public regulations where I would essentially not be handling cash, if I have someone I want to assist I would sing an imprest account and give it to the pay clerk out there to assist that person. It’s a simple process. Again obviously if I was told or advised upon assuming office how it was done clearly we wouldn’t have been having this press conference today. What happened there is that two cheques were issued to me, I endorsed the cheques because it was issued to me I was then given the cash which is for the 28th of March and the 4th of April, two cheques totalling $500 to serve as a fund to assist people. On those given days I try to see some of the people that are residents of the city, I feel comforted transacting that kind of business. Clearly the way it was perceived to have been done I did it essentially on the fact of my good integrity, clearly that did not rub good with some people. They want more than just my integrity, they want to ensure that we have checks and balances in place so that we are kept in check and clearly I have no issue with that, I respect that position and going forward we will change the way we operate. I was actually given the way it was done this morning, a bit too late and clearly that is an indicator again of how people are operating, how our staff are operating within the scope of the council and where there is this constant grind out type of war and fight in between trying to work along with people who clearly do not share in your manifest and does not share in your mandate. But I respect the fact that we were able to stop it given that it was brought to our attention that this might not be the way we want to.”

Reporter: So mea culpa on your part? An acceptance of ….

Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “Acceptance clearly that the fact is that I didn’t do it in any underhand way it was clearly and upfront transaction.”