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Leslie Miller Plaza Lease Among 'Handcuff' Deals

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The 10-year lease of Leslie Miller's Summerwinds Plaza is among the deals the Minnis administration is blaming for "handcuffing" its financial plans, Tribune Business can reveal.

Government contacts, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to this newspaper that the former Cabinet Minister's Tonique Williams Highway complex was one of the arrangements slammed by the Deputy Prime Minister in his mid-year Budget presentation.

K P Turnquest declined to comment when contacted yesterday, but Mr Miller described the lease - entered into by the former Christie administration in 2016 - as "a win-win" for all parties given that the rental rate was 45-55 per cent lower than that typically enjoyed by the Government.

The outspoken ex-MP told Tribune Business that the main potential tenant was the Immigration Department, which had been lined up to lease some 98,000 square feet at the former Robin Hood store. Other government departments supposed to join it are the Registrar General's Department, Public Parks and Beaches Authority and Parliamentary Registration (voting) Department.

Mr Miller emphasised there was "nothing underhand" about the lease deal, which he said had been vetted by the Attorney General's Office. Yet the arrangement had run into trouble under both the Christie, and now Minnis, administrations. He told this newspaper that he was suffering a case of "double victimisation" from both political parties. While the former government "held up the project" after Mr Miller publicly voiced his support for then-Opposition leader, Dr Hubert Minnis, he said its successor also appeared reluctant to move honour the contract.

Mr Miller added that "my family's future is in the hands of Dr Minnis and this government", revealing that he was already "out of pocket" on the deal as a result of undertaking renovations to meet the various government agencies' requirements.

Implying that rental payments have not been made, Mr Miller said: "We've had these leases in place from 2016. The leases started from then. Every time I would go and support Dr Minnis in his fight with Mrs Butler-Turner, they [the former government] held up the project.

"The election was over, Dr Minnis is prime minister now, and I'm being victimised again. I was victimised by the former government for supporting him, and I'm being victimised with family now for God knows what about.

"I'm victimised by my own government for supporting Dr Minnis, and now I'm being victimised again. Am I ever going to win? I don't know why they're coming after me when I supported him more than 90 per cent of them. They're coming after me for no reason.

"I'm a Bahamian and my family deserve to live like anyone else. The Prime Minister and minister of works said they're dealing with it, and we're just waiting for them to work it out and we'll do what we need to do so people can move into the space available. I expect them to live up to the terms of the lease, as it was done in the best interests of the ministries responsible."

Documents previously seen by Tribune Business and other media show that Mr Miller's Summerwinds Plaza and adjacent real estate assets were mortgaged to Bank of the Bahamas for a collective sum worth $25 million-plus.

The ex-Cabinet minister added, though, that the 10-year long-term lease signed with the Christie administration was priced at a $25 per square foot rental rate - a rate he said was $20-$30 less than what the Government typically pays to rent properties.

Mr Miller said he and his family were also responsible for renovation and maintenance costs, and added: "We're simply waiting for the Government to honour their obligation, and we'll go on and get the building ready for occupancy.

"It's not our fault it hasn't moved forward. Every ministry and department has signed off on their space. Immigration is taking 98,000 square feet, the Registrar General has signed off on their space, Parks and Beaches has signed off on theirs, and Voter Registry has already signed off.

"It's a win-win situation for all concerned, but I have to wait for their decision. It's all I can do. The Potcake awaits their decision. It's up to them. I have nothing to do with it. My family's future is simply in the hands of Dr Minnis and his government, and I trust them to do the right thing for Bahamians everywhere."

But Mr Turnquest, in his House of Assembly address, cited two cases where the Government owed between $13-$14 million for property leases and had "no exit clauses", even though "not one single government worker has ever set foot in the building".

He suggested some matters may result in legal action as the Government seeks to escape commitments it has no use for, adding: "Some of the agreements we have met in place, we are seemingly hand-cuffed even though we have no need of the service, so we have to figure out how to equitably exit these arrangements the former government put us in.

"We owe $13 million in one case, $14 million in another. But not one government worker ever set foot in the building. There's no exit clauses; the leases cannot be terminated. We have to pay it to the end. We're stuck."

"You wouldn't do it with your own money," the Deputy Prime Minister said of these and other contracts entered into by the former government. "No one would do it with their own money. It is evident that with these ongoing commitments we need to be doubly vigilant over the balance of the fiscal year to bring spending below Budget limits."

Tribune Business understands that another property referred to by Mr Turnquest is located on Soldier Road, but Mr Miller said he and his family had already incurred expenses in fitting out Summerwinds Plaza to the Government agencies' satisfaction.

"It's just been a continual run around," he told Tribune Business. "We're trying to get it resolved so we can get the premises finished to move the departments in.

"You couldn't get a better location than Tonique Williams Highway. We have over 200 parking spaces, and have started renovations to the entire building. It was almost fully stripped, we put Dura rock in the front, put in one mezzanine and were about to put in another.

"All of a sudden we were told to stop, and are now waiting on the Government to give me the green light so people can move into their respective areas. We're out of pocket. The Government knows what they need to do for us to get on with having the building complete for the tenants."

Comments

TalRussell 1 year, 2 months ago

Comrades, how do you even begin imagine the big balls swinging velocity this ballsy fired politician to have edged his bet on Minnis, KP and Carl Wilshire.... Sorry ladies, I didn't mean have you picturing Potcake's balls swingin'.

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viewersmatters 1 year, 2 months ago

What' all of the noise in the market is about!! Yea I was a sitting cabinet minister who obtained government contracts. Conflict of interest is so totally not involved....

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BahamasForBahamians 1 year, 2 months ago

Leslie Miller was not in Cabinet and such was not party to the decision making of the ones who signed off on the rental agreements.

If we are arguing his influence, then the issue of whether it is illegal goes out of the window.

Similar to Brent Symonette in the past administration with 90% of the Road works going to a company he is directly or indirectly connected to.

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hrysippus 1 year, 2 months ago

bananas-for=Bahamians consistently posts lies of this web-site. In the past administration 90% of road works did not go to company that he is directly or indirectly involved in. As is usual with these lying plp trolls, there is a small amount of truth. Bahama Hotmix did supply tarmac for road resurfacing on occasion when the government entity was not functioning.

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BahamasForBahamians 1 year, 2 months ago

For a matter of record - perhaps 95% of the road works went to a company Brent Symonette is directly or indirectly connected to. I then stand corrected. To further this explanation - Nearly 99% of the work contracted to Jose-Cartellone was subsequently subcontracted to Bahamas-HotM*x for completion on the Nassau Road Improvement Project.

FNM Cronies such as hyrsipp*s have been to known to question the validity of any statement that can damage the perception of transparency to either (1) Brent Symonette or (2) this FNM administration in general. The significance of their vested interest in the same is unknown but should not deter readers from the open and honest truth!

My statements should trigger one to do research not respond emotionally!

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joeblow 1 year, 2 months ago

Didn't Minnis himself have this problem when a company owned by him rented out space to the FNM government while serving in that same government? At the time his excuse was that he was not his company!

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sealice 1 year, 2 months ago

No the PLP rented that from him before he was in politics articles in this paper somewhere

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sealice 1 year, 2 months ago

Your family deserves to eat at East Villa for free like everyone else?

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TalRussell 1 year, 2 months ago

Comrades, what does you do when you're concrete politically certifiable - be chauffeur driven pass the Soup Lines to head lunch on Public Purse - for it not bother your sick PLP conscience. Hell is too good final resting place such thinkers. For such people, any red politician CAUGHT handing over a red penny - should be FIRED! Make this Landmark court battle on behalf, It's the People's time Teach some common sense lessons in financial management - on who that Public Purse's monies really belongs to.
Amen!

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realitycheck242 1 year, 2 months ago

Political patronage is some people bread and butter. They will stoop no matter how low, They will swim in it no matter who vomit and they think this country was made for their families only.The next generatipn is watching and the chicken's are comming home to roost. much Sooner than many think. Hurry up with the forensic audit at BOB.

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TalRussell 1 year, 2 months ago

Ma Comrade RealityCheck242, time rid land of structured political parties. Minnis and KP - what a quick disappointment,.

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realitycheck242 1 year, 2 months ago

Time to follow the policies put in place by the fiscal responsibilities bill, the proceeds of crime bill.

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TalRussell 1 year, 2 months ago

Comrade, hasn't the government not completely bypassed Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whilst awarding untendered contracts with private auditors in what may easily climb to $100 million - whilst PAC left bare cupboard auditors? Akin KP, having slush fund auditors.... just send ya bills Public Purse and I'm betting - unlike many government bills and workers - they're being paid on time,

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John 1 year, 2 months ago

First of there is no such thing as a contract, including a lease, that cannot be terminated. so K P Turnquest should stop singing that lie like a spoiled parrot that was taught to cuss whenever he saw strangers. What Turnquest really means is that if you enter a contract, bilateral, and you cause one party to act in good faith, like Leslie Miller has acted, an prepared his property to accommodate government and to their standards, then government is expected, no obligated, to live up to their part of he agreement and occupy the property and pay the Potcake his rent.or,in the alternative, if government chooses not to continue on the lease, they will have to pay relief to Miller for the monies he spent to make the property suitable to the government, in addition to loss of revenue due to the lease being terminated. And the Potcake may also seek other damages. The lease agreement should have included a clause where a significant portion of the rent goes to pay down Miller's loan at BoB that was apparently improperly secured. But one must wonder the real intent of K P Turnquest highlighting this particular lease when he admits the property is needed by the government. they secured the lease at a bargain rate and there was no improprieties surrounding the lease. seems like action is lacking from Turnquest, who need to move to secure the lease, move into the property and stop allowing more of the people's money to go down the drain. You know the FNM came riding in on a white horse, locking people up who were said to be involved in corruption or misused their office. The people had high hopes in this government. but now their desire to identify and prosecute persons who abused their office or stole the people's money has gone stale. they now sound too much like the PLP, singing about 'O look WHAT THEY DID TO US, LOOK WHAT THEY DI TO POOR OLD ME.' Are we going to hear this for the rest of the FNM's five years in office? So when are we going to get to setting up the soverign wealth fund and reversing those contracts that have single families stealing the wealth of the nation , yes like salt and aragonite, and fix it here the national debt is paid off each Bahamian not only get their taxes reduced, but cash money in their pockets semi-annually at least. Y'all jokin.

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realitycheck242 1 year, 2 months ago

The red shirts are thinking the BOB forensic audit will result in the seizure of the TWD property and buildings because of loan defaults. Was that not one of the loan,s handed over to Resolve ?? This is a mini Baha mar scandal involving a family, a bank the Gov and resolve!

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 2 months ago

Any one who believes this is a bad deal.. Check out the OBAN deal 45 years and OBAN can exit the deal but not the Government. And Turnquest talks.

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TalRussell 1 year, 2 months ago

Comrades, let face it - when Potcake Leslie was Chairman BEC - the corporation couldn't keep 60 watt light bulb powered.

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observer2 1 year, 2 months ago

Not sure what is complex about this situation. Its a clear conflict of interest for a member of the government to be entering into contracts with the government.

No you see why we get blacklist?

Don't pay the leases. Go to court. Fight it.

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 2 months ago

Offer an amended lease which is truly fair to both sides and if Leslie doesn't want to accept or if his added amendments are ridiculous then stop paying and let him put govt in court. The man deserves to be paid but it must be fair to all. The sq ft rate needs great consideration as well...if it is a bargain then it is a bargain.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 2 months ago

If the Government examines the Potcake's TWD complex lease and there are flaws in it ....... then take it to court for arbitration and early termination ....... We cannot continue to fund such nonsense.

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bogart 1 year, 2 months ago

..?? 10 year lease...is this the same building with the tiefs, tiefing the copper wires very expensive....?? In all fairness the terms must be examined and reasons why it should be cancelled stated. Knowing from past publications of his troubles with the tiefs and costs.....any tenant while being mindful of the so called reasonable per sq ft value must also factor in other clauses such as maintenance and repairs etc if part of the lease .....and other opportunities the govt may arise to build or buy own building... .....so in all fairness to Mr Miller the reasons why not should also be stated. ...of course in all fairness to the taxpayers from other article in same issue papers pn his having meals at the 5 star Chinese restaurant and sticking W&S and the tsxpayer with the 2,900 food bill with full details for the public records of this amount and this should be deducted plus interest from any payments!!!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 2 months ago

All cabinet ministers in the Minnis-led FNM government are just as crooked as the last Christie-led PLP government if they choose to honour rather than refute the validity of all crooked deals and contracts born out of glaring corruption that were wrongfully entered into by the former government, to the detriment of the Bahamian people. The current cabinet has unescapable collective responsibility for which we, the Bahamian people, will rightfully hold each and every one of them fully accountable!

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 2 months ago

It is not enough for the FNM to name and shame these PLP crooks ....... These PLP crooks must be made to repay these millions of dollars that were misappropriated by their cronies and PEPs since 2012.

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TalRussell 1 year, 2 months ago

Comrades, the Bahamaland has few Independent Voters but lots ON Fence Voters (OFV), and when talking with OFV - the results 2022 general election is done in when their body language wants nothing much do with PLP's, nor Red Shirts. Be interested observe how either two parties will present their Candidates damaged opportunistic sides if and when a by election bell runs,,,,and I hearing maybe be in next two months,

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