Posted: Monday, April 9, 2018. 7:15 p.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: Since Belize City Mayor Bernard Wagner was sworn into office on March 10, he has been the center of four different controversies.
Most recently, Wagner has been condemned by the United Democratic Party (UDP) for making cheques out on his name, under the explanation that he will use the funds to make donations.
The UDP said that Wagner’s justification for making out the cheques in his name is inexcusable because, “the Belize City Council already has a budget and transparent procedures for the issuance of social assistance funds”.
Wagner is making those cheques out at a time where the council’s accountability structures are weakened, because he removed the City Administrator, Candice Miller, as a check signer for the council’s cheques. With Miller, who is the council’s accounting officer, no longer a check signer for the council, Wagner and the Chief Accounting Officer are the only ones ensuring that there is accountability with the payments. Wagner further suspended Miller, pending an investigation on payments she made on the council’s behalf with respect to a debt racked up by former Compliance Officer Joe Bradley, for food and drinks.
Wagner has been criticized for suspending Miller, before giving her the opportunity to defend herself through the council’s vetting processes. Wagner said that his repeated issues with Miller may look like political victimization, but that he is just being realistic about her pressence at the council, given that the outgoing mayor gave her a contract that exceeded the life of his council.
Wagner, during an interview with Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez, also went on record calling people derogatory names towards his own people. Wagner described party supporters who are looking for employment at the council as “Barbarians at the gate”, a characterization that did not sit well with many who heard it.
Wagner also came under intense scrutiny, when he called on Certified Public Accountant and former PUP Minister Joe Coye, who was at the epicenter of many controversies during his time in government, to conduct special reviews of the council’s finances.
Critics came down on Wagner for calling on Coye and shining a spotlight on an era in the PUP’s history, that the party is still trying to live down.
Wagner maintains that all his decisions have been in the best interest of the people, and are guided by the principles found in the Bible that he keeps on his desk.
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