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break-down of legal review

Governor ignores the law on filling board vacancies

By Susan K. Wolterbeek
Published: July 13, 2010

This is an open letter to V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer with a copy to Solicitor General Elliot M. Davis:

The Governor keeps blatantly breaking the law: According to the V.I. Code, the Governor must advertise for boards and commissions, and accept nominations from the public and organized groups. He refuses.

U.S. Air Force Maj. David L. Maxwell (Ret.) wrote Gov. John deJongh Jr. a letter discussing these laws, which was published in The Daily News on Oct. 15, 2009, and attached hereto. Maj. Maxwell never received a reply from the governor.

Instead, Gov. deJongh continued with his practice of shutting out all the rest of us who live in the US Virgin Islands. We have a right to nominate good people for the boards and commissions, and our rights are continually being violated by our governor who just appoints whomever he wants.

The statutes are clear and unequivocal, as I pointed them out to Sen. Michael Thurland, chairman of the Rules and Judiciary Committee in my letter dated May 12, 2010, and published the next day in The Daily News. I never received a reply to my letter either.

Would you please enforce these laws? All illegal appointments to boards and commissions should be void, and those positions advertised, following the V.I. Code. The language in these statutes is mandatory, and specific, as to the procedure for filling vacancies.

It is the governor’s duty and obligation under V.I. Code, Title 3, Chapter 5, Subchapter 1, Section  § 65a. to fill the vacancies on boards within 60 days of the date the vacancy occurred.

The Board of Land Use Appeals had not had a quorum since 2007. Last year two groups filed appeals to that Board against the planned illegal dumping in Lindbergh Bay. Their appeals were never heard, a clear violation of due process.

It took considerable environmental advocacy with federal agencies and publishing documented violations of federal criminal laws to finally get the permit application withdrawn. All of that effort would have been avoided had the Governor complied with the law.

Despite Major Maxwell’s letter and mine, the governor again refused to advertise, and he nominated only his choices to the Land Use Appeals Board this spring.

We Virgin Islanders have Constitutional Rights, which include being fairly and justly governed according to our laws.

Pursuant to V.I. Code, Title 3, Chapter 5, Subchapter 1, Section  § 65b:

“Prior to the submission of a nomination to the Legislature to fill a vacancy on a board or commission, which nomination requires the advice and consent of the Legislature; the Governor shall cause to be printed in a newspaper of general circulation in each island district, a public notice that a vacancy exists. Such notice shall state the name of the board or agency on which the vacancy occurs, the fact that the Governor will be submitting a nomination to the Legislature, any qualifications required by law of prospective nominees, and an invitation to the public and organized groups to recommend persons to the Governor for nomination to fill the vacancy. The public notice shall be published not less than twice a week for two consecutive weeks.”

The Daily News confirms these public notices have never been issued for seats on boards and commissions.

Would you please compel the governor to follow these laws now and advertise for all board and commission seats that were filled illegally?

It is no wonder that many people feel they are powerless, when even our own governor refuses to obey the law and honor our rights.

Please show us that you care about enforcing the rights of the people. Thank you.

— Susan K. Wolterbeek is an attorney who lives on St. Thomas.

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