Airport CEO resigns with scathing letter criticising PM Browne

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Euletta Francis
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In a blistering three-page criticism of Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s leadership style, the now former CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA), Euletta Francis, resigned from her post yesterday.

Her departure came shortly after the exit of APUA’s General Manager, Esworth Martin.

The Prime Minister, for several days, has stated his intention to see “heads roll” due to his dissatisfaction with the performance of top officials in key administrative positions.

On his radio station on Saturday, the Prime Minister said, without directly referencing anyone, he planned to remove at least four persons from their jobs, stating that at least one was “obnoxious” and “rude”.

In her letter which was released to the press on Monday, Francis claimed that the Prime Minister gave “half-truths and untruths in an unbridled attempt” to assassinate her character.

“I find this public attack to be most offensive, inappropriate, and unacceptable from the Office of the Prime Minister. I am a 55-year-old professional and reiterate that I have been a loyal servant of the government of Antigua and Barbuda for the past 11 years,” she wrote.

The letter details at least one conversation with Browne over the construction of the Barbuda airport where Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) officials were present during his recent trip to the sister isle.

According to Francis’ letter, “[On] November 10th 2023, I received a call again from the [Prime Minister] indicating that he was in Barbuda to get an update on the airport. I was in Antigua.

“The update was clearly from the PLH group and not the body enacted by Parliament to make provisions for the ownership, control, management, and development of airports in Antigua and Barbuda and for matters connected generally with management of airports.

“Based on the information I can only assume garnered from the PLH group, the Prime Minister asked several questions, to which I did my best to respond or explain where necessary.

“The PM rebutted every explanation I gave based on immediate feedback from the PLH persons present, of which many facts were misrepresented or skewed.

“The PM, however, chose to believe the PLH personnel versions, and this was of course very disturbing. I responded questioning why he would believe what was told to him by PLH over me.

“The PM then accused me of raising my voice, and shouted at me ‘girl go home, I’m fed up of you, you are an obstructionist’.”

According to her, Browne continued to berate her and demanded that the airport be opened by December “since PLH had lots of people needing to fly into Barbuda”.

She hit out at the “girl” label used by the Prime Minister stating that she was a “woman” and a professional public servant.

Francis described another past conversation with PM Browne where he wanted her to meet with Osmond Lake of Sunrise Airways within two days, despite Francis expressing that she could only do so in two weeks’ time, due to ongoing negotiations on the airport loan deal that she reportedly was spearheading.

The Prime Minister, according to her, said that work done to secure a US$100 million loan deal for the airport was being done by consultants and not her, which she said was egregious as the “ABAA has not now or ever employed any consultant to review commercial terms of any loan facility, [and as] CEO I have worked tirelessly to see this deal through to this final point where closing was scheduled for this week”.

In her letter to the Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Airport Authority, Rolston Potter, she said that her accomplishments spoke for themselves during her tenure, including management during the Covid-19 pandemic, financial performances without a Chief Financial Officer for the past year, and the creation of a ‘Charting the future of VCBIA’ five-year capital improvement project plan to rehabilitate various runways and terminals on the site.

“The executive team of ABAA worked tirelessly, due to several senior management positions remaining unfilled because of financial concerns of the board regarding ABAA’s ability to pay salaries [and] while government ministries closed daily and many offices and businesses remained closed across Antigua and Barbuda, VCBIA never closed,” she wrote.

There are potentially more civil servants on the Prime Minister’s chopping block within the coming days, as he recently threatened some would be fired for not performing the duties they were being paid to do.

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