Jahmal Simmons’ Appointment As Chief of Staff

To begin with, I want to make clear that I consider Mr. Simmons a personal friend of mine. Also, I have not yet had an oppurtunity to speak with him concerning this appointment of his. I quite like Mr. Simmons, and prior to his departure from the UBP I had viewed him as a potential leader of that Party as compared to Mr. Furbert.

All that being said, I really find it quite amazing that he has been appointed as the Premier’s Chief of Staff. I have issues with this position in and of itself and do feel that it is an example of ‘creeping presidentialism.’ I can see the need for modernisation of the existing infrastructure that the position, along with a bodyguard and the press room represent. There are certain justifications that can be made for them. At the same time there are duplications of existing infrastructure caused by their creation. As I understand it the Premier’s office comes complete with at least two administrative assistants, and I have not yet been able to figure out what a ‘Chief of Staff’ does that was not and is not done by the existing administrative assistants. I’m also curious to know how and if this job was advertised, what the job description is, and how does this job description and pay scale compare to similar positions already existing? Somehow I get the impression that the pay scale for the admin assistants is not quite at the same level as the $102K salary of the Chief of Staff, even if it appears they are the ones actually doing the work. I mean, what are the qualifications necessary here?

Apart from that, it seems clear that this position is largely a political appointment. This is itself causes problems, none the least of which is couldn’t this money go towards something else of actual necessity (use value) within the government service? Pretty much every government service is short-staffed and underfunded (perhaps I should say mismanaged instead), and those workers in the trenches are getting somewhat disgruntled with hearing that government doesn’t have the money to meet demands of living wages, justified standard of living increases, and adequate resources to do our work well, while we keep hearing of money suddenly being found for various luxuries and superficialities, not to mention positions such as the one in question.

If this isn’t enough, being a political appointment this particular appointment is bound to ruffle some feathers within the Party rank and file itself. Similar to Mr. Thaao Dill’s appointment to the Senate, some are going to ask whether this appointment is justified. While Mr. Dill will no doubt be an excellent Senator, many of those who put in the hard work behind the scenes, over time and actually were willing to run for election, but lost, are no doubt wondering why Mr. Dill was chosen and not those who actually invested heavily into the Party and its goal of winning the election. Mr. Simmons’ probably will be a good Chief of Staff, but what is the message here? Defect from the Party, defect from another Party and finally defect from one more Party and return to the PLP and you get a huge reward? Perhaps more of us should defect just to be rewarded in the long term.

The message being sent here is quite frankly contrary to the long-term strategy of progressive labour. Not only does it totally render any defence of this position as being a justified and necessary one by making it clear to all that it is simply a political cronyist appointment, but it also sends the wrong message of what leads to rewards and what doesn’t. From a tactical point of view it, along with Mr. Dill’s appointment makes sense. But tactics are for short-term purposes only, and too heavy reliance on them leads to winning battles but losing wars.

With all due respect to Mr. Simmons’, his acceptance of this position will only serve to further damage his reputation and cement the perception by many, mostly outside the Party but also growing and substantial within the Party itself, that he is an oppurtunist and not to be trusted.

I think he was wrong to accept the position, and I think the appointment will in the long term lead to greater trouble than its worth for the Party.

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27 thoughts on “Jahmal Simmons’ Appointment As Chief of Staff

  1. Ultimately my objurgations of this appointment rest with the now lingering questions of whether or not this was a dishonest and decietful ruse constructed from the very beginning causing me to oppugn whether there was actually any truth to Mr. Simmon’s original accusations of racism against the UBP.

  2. I would disagree with you both on the argument that Mr. Simmons’ was somehow inserted into the UBP as some sort of ‘sleeper cell’ with the long term goal of discrediting the UBP. At least that is how the argument comes across. It is much more likely and believable that he was courted either directly after his public condemnation of the UBP or he expressed his frustrations privately to the PLP shortly before doing so. None of these actions support an argument that he was acting on behalf of the PLP in his actions, or that the PLP requested he do this or that. At the most it means the PLP may have been aware of the potential for these actions, and courted him as a result. He has always been someone within the UBP with him we could talk, as would be obvious from his political past and the fact that even having jumped ship he retained friends within the Party itself. The UBP, but its continuing actions, rhetoric and tactics continues to come across as trying to desparately ignore the race issue, and in doing so exacerbates it. It would be better for the UBP to carefully reflect on its structural problems than to constantly try to spin off these criticisms as diabolical PLP plots.

    I will acknowledge once more though, that this action by Mr. Simmons does continue to tarnish his credibility, and that of the office he is appointed to. But this does not make his accusations any less real, and it is a scarecrow false argument style to dismiss these accusations by assasinating his character.

  3. i don’t know jahmal but from what i understand he is from a plp family – he was originally a plp member and has now rtnd – i don’t see the big deal – hilary clinton was a goldwater girl and was a jr republican as was her family – now she’s one of the main faces of the democratic party and she rightfully is never really called on this change of face – i personally LOVE – when people leave the ubp and join the plp – now re; his appointment – it’s not like he was made a senator – he was given a pretty inconsequential civil service job

  4. %102K is hardly a rather inconsequential civil service job, especially with the current rancor between government authoritarainism towards government workers. If it is a civil service job, it should have been advertised as per our collective bargaining agreement. Its position at the very centre of power also renders your comment of it being a rather inconsequential civil service job obsolete. My issue is not about him (re)joining the PLP, that is fine and should be welcomed indeed, although he should be held in suspicion as an oppurtunist until proven otherwise, and certainly not ‘rewarded’ as he appears to have been.

    New Onion, not sure how to take your comment, so I’ll take it with a pint of guinness instead of a pinch of salt for the time being! 😉

  5. Recall I didn’t say it itself was the centre of power, but it is ‘at’ the centre of local power in real terms, Government House, Front Street and the US Consulate not withstanding…

  6. Not that this is more than semantics i suspect, but Jamahl isn’t the new Chief of Staff. His position is Executive Aide to the Premier.

  7. You are correct Alys, I had read through it too quickly. The post of ‘Chief of Staff’ has been abolished and replaced with the post of ‘Executive Aide.’ Its not clear, but it appears that this ‘new’ position, while retaining the same salary has less responsibility, which is interesting. The point though is, as you admit, largely a semantic one, and does not get away from the central problem.

  8. Zigzactly. The news reports were quite clear that his job was to act as the string between the Doc and his puppets. It’s a political job and should be paid for by party funds.

  9. I’m marveling at how you criticize Simmons for accepting the position, while never taking to task the individual who created the position. Bizarre. You don’t even mention the Premier directly, going to pains to write the post as criticism of Simmons (who can’t believe he’s paid 100 grand to be a secretary) without putting the blame for this absurd scenario at the feet of the individual who created the post.

    Bizarre.

    Jamahl will go anywhere he thinks he can be close to power and be paid for it (the UBP also paid him for PR work if I recall). Hard to blame him really, he’s otherwise umemployable.

    You’re not ready for the reality based community. Your Premier, Simmons and the rest of the inner sanctum don’t give a shit about the party. It’s just a vehicle for their own ambitions. When will you realize this?

  10. The position was actually created by the UBP in the form of legislation written and passed in 1983, so I cannot complain about the Premier in regards to this position. I would be curious to hear what, if any, the then Opposition PLP had to say about such a post. Col. Burch however was the first person to fill this position under Jeniffer.

    Reality based community…is this the new buzzword after truthiness? Very interesting. Perhaps my subversiveness is a tad sophisticated…

  11. Yes, John Swan created the position – and it was controversial at the time. The PLP vigorously fought it (as did some in the UBP). However, the PLP have really run with it in recent years. It is being abused. There should be no political positions on the public payroll.

  12. Is it a political position though? I mean, if it is part of our legislation? It’s a valid civil servant postion backed up by laws that UBP implemented. I don’t think the issue should be about the position in and of itself, more the manner with which it is was awarded and, indeed, to whom. Due to personal reasons, I won’t comment on my own view of Jahmal accepting the job but I do ask that we consider the fact that this position is not a case of the premier “creating” a position. There are actually two available spots for aides to the premier, if he (whoever that person is at any given time)chooses to so fill them.

  13. It is not a civil service position. It is paid for by the government, but is a private position reporting to the premier.

  14. The relevant legislation is the ‘Premier & opposition Leader Personal Staffs Act 1983.’

    Section 5 of this legislation states quite clearly, that:

    (1) Personal staffs shall not form part of the public service of Bermuda, and persons on those staffs shall not be public officers of Bermuda, for any purpose.

    (3) Notwithstanding subsection (1) [above], a person on a personal staff shall be deemed –
    (a) for the purposes of the Contributory Pensions Act 1970 and the Msc Taxes Act 1976 to be an employee of the government, and;
    (b) for the purposes of the GEHI Act 1971 to be a government employee employed in the Legislature.

    Other relevant info is Section 6 which states that the personal staff is personal to the appointers, so ceases to be the personal staff when the Premier or Opp Leader ceases to be in that post.

    Section 4, subsection (3) states that the total remuneration should not exceed the amount provided for the purpose by the Legislature; subsection (2) states that the terms and conditions are created on appointment.

    Thats really about it, its a very short act, two pages, six sections.

  15. “It is not a civil service position. It is paid for by the government, but is a private position reporting to the premier.”

    so is it or is it not a civil service position?

  16. Vanz, there were some comments of yours that I found in my spam filter; I’ve tried to despam them but instead I appear to have lost them. I’ll keep searching, but just thought I’ld give you a heads up about it…

    Oh, found them. I should check that filter more regularly I guess…

  17. Another nice diversion by dwelling on the creation of the legislation.

    Let me break it down for you…replace the word ‘created’ with ‘offered’.

    Brown offered a highly paid political appointment to a guy who has no core values than his own desire to be close to power, someone who has railed against every organization he was unsuccessful in.

    Saying all that, the offer to Simmons by Brown is more insulting to PLP members than Simmons’ acceptance of it.

    Go back and re-read your post. The contortions in your logic to absolve yourself of having to confront your parties leadership is stunning.

    This was a payoff pure and simple. Simmons couldn’t not accept, both because of his ego and because it’s the best paying gig he’ll every manage to land because it isn’t based on merit but on patronage.

  18. Truth,

    Honestly I think you are deliberately misinterpreting my post. Its intention was to both criticise Simmons for accepting the position, the need for the position itself and, albeit implicitly, the general leadership style that is the greater question. Its that simple.

    As for a ‘diversion’ I was responding to what you wrote. If you had written ‘offered’ I would have responded to that instead.

  19. Jonathan,

    I appear to have misrepresented myself. I didn’t intend to imply that Mr. Simmons had a long standing goal of undermining the UBP. Simply questioning whether it arose prior to his public claims of racism against the UBP as part of a shady electioneering tactic of which he may now be reaping the rewards.

    To my knowledge Jahamal never named names or provided evidence to back up his accusations. Thus, I have questioned from the very beginning whether his accusations held weight or were simply a retaliation tactic for not being handed another safe seat. All his recent appointment does is add weight to the questions that linger about whether or not there was any truth to his accusations.

    To take his accusations as truth without evidence would be as bad as taking the accusations made against the Premier as truth without acquiring evidence. Thus, unless Jahamal decides to name names and provide evidence, I can not help but consider the UBP ‘exhonorated’ of all accusations.

  20. One of the difficulties is if we are discussing overt or covert racism. Overt racism is the in your face, KKK, outspoken defence of white supremacy and belief of black inferiority. This type of racism is easily identified, is personified, and names can be named, evidence presented. Covert racism is much more subtler and it is quite impossible to name names and the like. Think about overt sexism and institutional sexism as an example, sometimes its easier to understand it that way. We all now some overtly chauvunistic people, but the glass ceiling is often harder to point out, even when we know its there.

    There are many I have met who do believe that Jahmal was almost a sleeper cell; an absurd argument in my opinion. I do not believe, but cannot present any evidence, that he was approached by the PLP prior to his public comments of the UBP. I feel it is likely he was contacted immediately after though.

  21. “I can not help but consider the UBP ‘exhonorated’ of all accusations.”

    over the years julian hall, gwyn rawlins, jahmal, max burgess, cv woolridge and graham outerbirdge’s brother (can’t remember his name) are just a few ex ubpers who have left that party saying the same thing – jws even hinted at it briefly when he first stepped down – so how can anyone “consider the UBP ‘exhonorated’ of all accusations (of racism)

  22. Pedantic.

    The position doesn’t have to be filled. It was in fact highly customized so that he could get Simmons to do it? Why is this? What is the motivation? Surely it isn’t because he wants a highly paid secretary?

    A very nice thank you for services rendered I think.

    I also think my original point remains, that you went out of your way to write the post to avoid directly being critical of your party’s leader for what is a pretty astonishing act of disrespect to other very capable and philosophically consistent party supporters.

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