At City Hall, Mayor Bernard Wagner clarifies Council’s position on social assistance.
BELIZE CITY, Tues. Apr. 10, 2018– After being on the job for a little over one month since he and his team triumphed at the polls, Belize City mayor, Bernard Wagner, is settling in, notwithstanding pockets of indifference from some employees at City Hall, the majority of whom have been there during the 9 years the Belize City Council was under the rule of the United Democratic Party.
At a media briefing today, Mayor Wagner, who is weathering the first storm of his leadership at the largest municipal body in the country, explained how it was that he came to sign two checks that were designated to be used to assist needy city residents, under the Council’s social assistance program. The checks totaled $500, and were made out in the Mayor’s name.
Mayor Wagner, who is not familiar with how the process functions at City Council, signed the pair of checks then went about distributing the funds to needy residents. That sparked attacks from the UDP, and he came under sustained attack for his actions in social media posts, and especially on the UDP airwaves.
“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 sign an imprest account and give it to the pay clerk out there to assist that person. It’s a simple process,” Mayor Wagner told the media.
Mayor Wagner added, “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 March 28 and April 4, two cheques totaling $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 well 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,” Mayor Wagner said.
Mayor Wagner went on to explain, “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 manifesto and do 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 go.”
Mayor Wagner was asked if he accepted responsibility for what had happened, and he said he did. “The fact is that I didn’t do it in any underhanded way; it was clearly an upfront transaction,” he added.