The Managing Director of the Farmhouse Hotel decided not to report an employee to the Guernsey Border Agency for what he himself described as “an extremely serious” breach of isolation rules, after seeking "sufficient leeway" not to do so from his close friend and lawyer - the Chairman of the CCA.
An email exchange shared with Express shows David Nussbaumer warning one of his housekeepers about her actions, which amounted, in his words, to "a very serious offence".
According to the conversation, the woman was found hiding in a wardrobe after spending at least 90 minutes in the room of her self-isolating partner at the hotel.
The emails appear to show Mr Nussbaumer deciding not to report the breach following a conversation with Deputy Peter Ferbrache – Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority – because of the potential repercussions for the business.
Mr Nussbaumer is also shown instructing the housekeeper, if asked by Public Health, to say she inadvertently came into contact with a self-isolating guest.
According to the exchange, Deputy Ferbrache's initial advice was to report the violation to the GBA, before later advising that there was "sufficient leeway" not to do so, having been urged by Mr Nussbaumer to reconsider.
Deputy Ferbrache said he cannot recall having conversations with Mr Nussbaumer about this. He emphasised to Express that he would “never, ever” tell anyone not to comply with Guernsey's isolation rules.
Mr Nussbaumer initially refused to answer specific questions on what he described as “private and confidential conversations” between two close friends.
He has since asserted that he "fibbed" to the housekeeper about contacting Deputy Ferbrache in order to frighten her, to make sure she "never made the same mistake again."
He insisted that what he wrote in the emails obtained by Express "do not reflect" the conversations he had with the CCA Chairman.
Mr Nussbaumer has not denied writing the emails that are quoted below.
Pictured: Deputy Ferbrache said he would never give advice not to comply with the regulations. He said he cannot remember the individual conversation with Mr Nussbaumer.
At 19:13 on Thursday 27 May, Mr Nussbaumer sent a message reprimanding the housekeeper, after the incident was reported to management.
“I cannot believe that you have been in […] room today," he said.
"You are not a teenager and this is a very serious offence. As a matter of urgency please get a covid test done tomorrow and do not return to work until such time as it is negative.”
The staff member returned Mr Nussbaumer’s email, saying she wants to tell “her side of the story”.
She admits that she was “found in that room”, after going there to "bring some things and collect some things".
“Yes we were chatting […] as there are guests staying close by, to don’t call to much attention, I was inside his room by the doors and [he] was at the far end by the balcony door.”
When her partner was informed by reception that someone was coming up to the room, she ”panicked”.
“I wasn’t thinking straight and decided to hide,” she wrote to her boss. "I'm sorry for causing trouble and letting you down."
She added that the man had received two negative Covid tests and had no symptoms.
At 21:46, Mr Nussbaumer wrote that the housemaid should be “sanctioned”, adding: “I have put a call in to Peter regarding our situation. Awaiting his call back.”
The ‘Peter’ in question was none other than Deputy Peter Ferbrache, the Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, which makes the emergency legislation that people in the Bailiwick must comply with.
Close to £100,000 has been imposed in fines for self-isolation breaches since the start of the pandemic. Others have faced criminal sanctions, such as jail terms, for inability to pay individual fines of up to £10,000.
Earlier this week, a woman was fined £5,000 for ‘aiding and abetting’ her partner’s isolation breach by encouraging him to go out with her on the day he arrived from France.
Pictured: People who fail to comply with the Bailiwick's emergency regulations face fines of up to £10,000 and/or 3 months in prison.
The following morning, Mr Nussbaumer wrote to the housemaid about a conversation he said he had with Deputy Ferbrache.
“Because of the extremely serious situation which you have put us in and especially with other staff knowing the situation, I had to seek advice from Peter Ferbrache."
“His initial advice last evening was for me to report you to the border agency for violation of the covid rules.
“Because of the fines this would have cost you up to £10,000 and due also to the fact that the hotel might have been closed down by the authorities, I asked Peter to reconsider overnight and especially so having seen your email.”
“Whilst he does not believe your reasons (you were in the room for at least 90 mins) he nevertheless thinks there is sufficient leeway for me not to have to report you.”
He then tells the housemaid to describe the man as a guest to Public Health, and to say their contact was “inadvertent”.
The man in question had, in fact, been employed by the firm just days’ earlier and was the housekeeper's partner. He was self-isolating ahead of starting work at the hotel.
Mr Nussbaumer wrote: “Please explain the reasoning you require it [the test] is because as a housekeeper you inadvertently came in to contact with a hotel guest who was self-isolating and were therefore told by your managing director to stop working immediately.”
Contacted by Express on Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Ferbrache said he had no recollection of giving those words of advice to Mr Nussbaumer.
“I can’t recollect that. I wouldn’t have told him that.”
The Chief Minister said he “would never, ever” advise anyone, even a “close friend”, not to comply with the regulations, whose creation and monthly renewal he is responsible for.
Pressed on what he did say to Mr Nussbaumer, he told Express: “I can’t remember the individual conversation because I have many conversations with Mr Nussbaumer. He’s a good friend of mine.
“I would always advise anybody, as a general rule, if there has been a breach of the regulations, to report it and do whatever is necessary to correct it, which might involve taking a test and seeing if it is negative."
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache is the island's Chief Minister and Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, which makes the rules that Bailiwick citizens have had to abide by throughout the pandemic.
Deputy Ferbrache confirmed that he has, in the past, and on numerous occasions, acted professionally for Mr Nussbaumer and Nut Tree Limited, the Farmhouse's parent company.
“Yes, many times, him personally and his businesses. I know him well, he’s a friend of mine, a very good friend. He’s not a person I know casually – he’s a good friend, we socialise together.”
Asked if he agreed it would not be appropriate for the Chairman of the CCA to give advice on potential isolation breaches, he replied: “No, exactly, exactly. Especially as I don’t know what happened.”
He continued: “I certainly would never, ever, in all the time I have been involved in the CCA since October of last year, have advised anybody not to comply with the regulations.
“So whether Mr Nussbaumer got the wrong end of the stick, I can’t remember. I can’t remember having that conversation.”
Express called Mr Nussbaumer on Wednesday afternoon to ask him what advice Deputy Ferbrache had given him about the potential isolation breach.
“Any correspondence would be private, so I’m not going to comment on that,” he replied.
“Peter and I are friends, so anything between Peter and myself would be a confidential, friendly thing. Peter and I are in constant contact. I am not going to say any more than that.”
“I have been having cancer treatment. I was heavily dosed. I cannot remember every email or conversation I have had with Peter. I have several conversations with Peter and we exchange details on a variety of things.”
Asked directly about the content of the emails and his decision that there was “sufficient leeway” not to report what had happened, he said: “I would have been on my account from Southampton Hospital. I can’t recollect those emails. I handed it over to Mr Chick. You need to speak to Mr Chick about he handled it."
Express contacted Alan Chick, a Director of Nut Tree Limited, for his account of what happened.
“I wasn’t directly involved in this at all,” he replied. “As far as I was aware, David wrote those emails to put the fear of God into them.
“On that point [my involvement], David is getting confused between a few events.”
Pictured: Mr Chick said he had reported a separate isolation breach at the Cobo Bay Hotel to the Guernsey Border Agency, but told Express he had no involvement in the decisions made about a potential breach at the Farmhouse Hotel.
Mr Chick said there had been a separate incident at the Cobo Bay Hotel a few days later. A new member of staff was self-isolating at the hotel, but walked off to the nearby Iceland store on 30 May, the day of a balcony gig.
Mr Chick said that he had dealt with this incident for the hotel group, reporting it to the Guernsey Border Agency “straight away”.
Of Mr Nussbaumer’s comments, Mr Chick said: “Before he went [to Southampton Hospital] he obviously wasn’t thinking clearly with the news he had got.”
Express asked Mr Chick whether an employer should be deciding what is a breach and what isn’t.
“I am not prepared to comment on that because I wasn’t involved in the situation,” he replied. “There are conflicting stories going on at the hotel as to what happened.
"I think David wrote those emails to put the fear of God into them, as they were a couple, to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
On Friday, Mr Nussbaumer emailed Express, offering further comments which he declared would “set the record straight”, asserting that this explanation of his was "the end of it”.
“Having got tired of your unnecessary cross examination on Wednesday, I am following up out of pure courtesy and to put an end to any possible misunderstanding.
“I wrote to [the housekeeper] in the manner that I did for a couple of reasons:
1) To cause her concern for her actions
2) And to frighten her so that she would not repeat her mistake again.”
He reiterated again that “Peter is a close friend and so I speak to him often and on a number of subjects.”
“I wish to place on record that the words I used in my email to [the housekeeper] do not reflect on anything that Peter and I might have discussed, he phoned me on a regular basis to checkup on my progress and I often returned his calls.
Mr Nussbaumer cited his poor health, saying that he “often got confused and/or got things wrong during my ongoing treatment for cancer”.
“The record is set straight and the only thing that I am guilty of is telling [the housekeeper] a couple of fibs in order to get her to realise the severity of her actions. That is the end of it.”
The Guernsey Border Agency was asked whether the two separate incidents referenced by Mr Nussbaumer and Mr Chick were referred to the authorities.
“It would be inappropriate for the GBA to comment on an investigation in relation to any allegations of a breach of Covid-19 regulations,” the agency replied.
“It is only when an investigation has been completed and a court hearing has taken place that the facts of the matter are made available to the public. We would like to reassure the public that we respond to reports of self-isolation breaches.”
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