Laura Esquivel forced to resign as Director of BTB
Friday, March 21st, 2014
There is major discontent in the family of the former two-term United Democratic Party (UDP) Prime Minister Right Honorable Doctor Sir. Manuel Esquivel. The discontent stems from an issue which his daughter, Laura Esquivel-Frampton,who was forced to resign as the Director of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB). Esquivel-Frampton had been at the head of the BTB for 22 months following the resignation of Seleni Matus. But on March 11th, a letter signed by seven members of her senior executive management team was leaked to the media in which they lodged an unexpected vote of no confidence, calling for her resignation.
The letter, which was addressed to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. and copied to the Chief Executive Officer in Ministry of Tourism Tracy Taegar Panton and Acting Chief Chairman of the Board of Directors Einer Gomez, accuses Frampton of running BTB on her own. “It is clear that the best interest of the industry is not being considered as is evident in the current financial management concerns that exist, which have not only limited the ability of the various departments of the BTB to fulfill their mandates, but also resulted in significant dissatisfaction with industry partners. After a series of very serious meetings, at the highest level, as a management team…the most recent being February twenty-eight, we feel that she has disregarded our concerns, especially as it pertains to the finances of the institution. Moreover, all calls made for further discussion or ‘deep diving’ into the current financial position of the organization have been largely discounted,” stated the letter. It continued to say, “we firmly believe that the organization and industry deserves a leader who leads.” It ended by warning that, “if decisive action is not taken at this time, it will lead to an even worse position.”
According to various media reports, there have been serious differences between Frampton and the current CEO Tracy Taegar-Panton, which has been carried over to senior management. What makes matters even worse is that this year there are reports of a deficit in the finances at BTB, which is believed to be in the millions of dollars, and according to Channel 7 News, it is being put at the door of Frampton. It was an unprecedented and not too happy departure for Frampton, since over the past six years, under the watch of Heredia, BTB has seen the resignation of three different directors and two Board Chairmen.
The San Pedro Sun can confirm that Frampton officially resigned on Wednesday March 12th and has departed office. Her resignation is not being taken lightly by the Esquivel family. Laura Esquivel is the eldest daughter of Sir Manuel Esquivel, who was UDP party leader for 18 years and who led the first UDP administration into office 1984 and then in 1993, becoming a two-term Prime Minister. But the seven directors, in the letter stated that “we are fully conscious of the political ramifications…and we are fully prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder…to ensure a process that will have the least impact in your [Manuel Heredia] position.”
By Thursday March 13th Sir Manuel Esquivel had written to the Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow communicating his decision to resign from all government appointed position. Those positions included Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister, Director on the boards of Belize Telemedia Limited and Belize Sugar Industry. In addition, his wife Kathy Esquivel also resigned on the same day as Chairman of the National AIDS Commission. Kathy had been on the board since 2002 as opposition representative, and was named Chairperson in 2008 when the UDP was elected to office. When questioned by Channel 7 News for the reason of his sudden resignation, Dr Esquivel said that “there is a tide in the affairs of men,” and that he is now going into full retirement.
Meanwhile BTB officially sent out a release on March 12th in which it thanked Esquivel for her services. “During her tenure, she conducted herself with integrity, genuine concern for the industry and fiscal accountability,” said the release.
Heredia told The San Pedro Sun on Friday March 14th that while he had not seen the letter signed by the seven directors, he was aware of the situation. The minister said that he had not spoken to Frampton but prefers that her departure be handled as peacefully and amicably as possible. For the time being, the Director of Revenue Collections and Registrar of Hotels, Javier Paredez, will serve as Interim Director.