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conflict of interest

Nominations for the Board of Land Use Appeals

Committee on Rules and Judiciary                                                                                May 13, 2010

Senator Michael Thurland, Chairman

Legislature of the Virgin Islands

#1 Lagoon Street Complex

Frederiksted, St. Croix, VI  00840

Re: Nominations for the Board of Land Use Appeals

Dear Senator Thurland:

The Virgin Islands Code is very specific in regard to filling seats on Boards and Commissions. These laws are not being observed.  As Retired Major David Maxwell wrote to Governor deJongh in a Letter to the Editor published in the VI Daily News on October 15, 2009, 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 this Board within 60 days of the date the vacancy occurred.

 

The last time there was a quorum was in 2007. When the CZM Board made an illegal decision in regard to Lindbergh Bay in 2009, local attorneys filed appeals to the Land Use Appeals Board, which did not have enough members to hear the case, because the Governor and your committee did not follow the VI Code. Thus, their appeal was never heard, and due process rights were flagrantly violated.

“A public hearing on an appeal shall be held by the board within 60 days after the appeal is filed with the board, and a decision shall be rendered by the board within 30 days after the conclusion of such public hearing.” (V.I. Code, Title 12, Chapter 21, § 914(c)).

Now, 3 years after he was required by law to do so, the Governor has selected contacts and cronies to fill these important seats, rather than following VI Code to look for the people best qualified for these  positions. 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.”

According to the VI Daily News last fall, these public notices have never been issued for boards and commissions. In regard to this specific board, there was no invitation to the public and organized groups to recommend persons for nomination. Instead, the Governor has selected Members for the Board of Land Use Appeals just as he has for other Boards and Commissions, and these nominees all have blatant conflicts of interest.

John Woods, Jr. is related to the Governor. Further, Mr. Woods is the principal of Jeredian Design Group.  In addition to private development projects (including CZM), he has been involved in many government projects, for example, the Christiansted Boardwalk, the design of the St. Croix offices of the Government Employee Retirement System, and several Department of Public Works (DPW) highway projects.

James Benton is the founder of J. Benton Construction which has managed many private and government construction projects.  Recently he was contracted to complete the St. Croix GERS office building.

Roberto Cintron is a civil engineer who has been Assistant Commissioner of DPW since April 2007.  Prior to that, he was St. Croix District Engineer for Public Works.

When there is a conflict of interest, board and commission members must announce the conflict, then recuse themselves from participating. If several board members recuse themselves, they may not have a quorum to vote on an issue. In the past, many board members and commission members have not recused themselves, despite blatant conflicts. This also is against the law, and only opens the government to further lawsuits.

 

We are asking your commission to deny this slate of candidates, and instead demand that Governor deJongh follow the above laws, advertise positions, review resumes, select the best candidates, who will not be conflicted out by their special interests, and who can then make sound, legal decisions.  Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

Major David Maxwell, Major, USAF (Ret.)

cc: Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary

Citizens, Environmentalists and the VI Daily News

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