One Bermuda Alliance MP Mark Pettingill resigned from the governing party yesterday and said he would probably retire from politics at the next General Election.
Mr Pettingill, the member for Warwick North East, told reporters he had a long meeting with Michael Dunkley on Wednesday and tendered his resignation to the Premier yesterday morning after “a lot of reflection and a lot of soul-searching”.
He will serve as an Independent MP in constituency 25 until the election, leaving the OBA with just 17 MPs in the House of Assembly and making it a minority government.
At a press conference at his law office on Reid Street, Mr Pettingill said he felt compelled to resign due to conflicts with his legal work — and revealed his firm Chancery Legal has been in talks with patients of Ewart Brown, the former premier, after a recent police raid on Dr Brown’s clinics.
The former Attorney-General added that he was “diametrically and philosophically opposed” to the Government on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage, casino gaming and cannabis reform.
In recent months, Mr Pettingill has been a vocal critic of the party he helped to form. This year, during debate in the House on the airport redevelopment project, he delivered a speech on race, which revealed his deep concern with his party’s handling of the issue and which was praised by several PLP MPs.
Yesterday, he told the media: “I find myself in a position of ongoing professional legal conflict with the Government on various existing litigation and potential matters that my law firm has been approached about having conduct over.
“Furthermore, I have unfortunately found myself diametrically and philosophically opposed to the Government’s position or approach on numerous issues in endeavouring to move Bermuda forward. I respect that the Premier, and the Cabinet, take a different view.
“In the interest of the country, I sincerely wish the Government every success for the remainder of their tenure in office, recognising that they have, in fact, accomplished many positive things for the island. I have no doubt the Government will have my support on any number of pending legislative matters.”
Asked which legal matters could bring him into conflict with the Government, Mr Pettingill said his “best friend” and colleague at Chancery Legal, Shawn Crockwell, also a former OBA MP who resigned from the party a year ago and became an Independent, was now representing a patient of Dr Brown, whose medical records were seized during the raids.
He noted that this was a matter being brought against the Bermuda Police Service, rather than the Government.
He said he and Mr Crockwell had held a “significant meeting” with more than 150 of Dr Brown’s patients and suggested that further legal action against police could follow.
Mr Pettingill, a defence lawyer, was first elected as a United Bermuda Party MP in Warwick West in 2007.
Two years later, he was a member of a breakaway group of UBP MPs which formed the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. In 2011, the BDA merged with the UBP to found the OBA.
In the 2012 General Election, Mr Pettingill switched to Warwick North East, where he defeated long-serving PLP MP Dale Butler as the OBA won power for the first time.
After serving as Attorney-General for about 18 months, during which time he courted controversy by his involvement in the Jetgate affair, Mr Pettingill stepped down to briefly take a position as chief legal officer for Clarien Bank, before returning to private practice.
As a backbencher, he has frequently been outspoken, criticising the way his party has handled same-sex marriage, public protests and racial issues.
He said yesterday the decision to resign was an emotional one, as he had such high hopes for what could be achieved by the OBA.
But he claimed the power base of the party had become more conservative and “UBP-centric” and, as a self-described “bleeding heart liberal”, he felt it had shifted away from his political ideology.
Mr Pettingill said: “Obviously, there is a huge element of disappointment which comes into play.”