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Governor Fails to Act

Vast number of board vacancies raises concern

By ALDETH LEWIN (Daily News Staff)
Published: February 16, 2011

ST. THOMAS – Sen. Usie Richards sent a letter to Gov. John deJongh Jr. this week outlining the excessive amount of vacancies and expired terms on the government’s various boards and commissions.

Richards is chairman of the V.I. Senate’s Rules and Judiciary Committee, which conducts confirmation hearings for the governor’s nominees to governmental boards. If the committee votes favorably on a nomination, it is forwarded to the full Senate for confirmation.

In his letter to the governor, Richards said that because the V.I. government does not have county commissioners, city councils or mayors, it is crucial that the boards and commissions provide representative government.

“It is truly troubling that we have not seen a thorough commitment to ensuring that all Boards and Commissions, vested with statutory authority and responsibility, are properly functioning and filled with the appropriate number of individuals whose terms have not expired,” Richards wrote.

Richards’ first purpose is to take an inventory of the government’s boards, he told The Daily News on Tuesday.

“The second purpose of us taking on this task is to make determination of whether a board or commission needs to be in existence, whether some of these boards could be consolidated,” he said.

Richards said taking the inventory is the first step and that the Legislature could decide to strengthen the law and force the governor’s hand to make nominations immediately after terms expire.

Richards and deJongh were scheduled to meet on the issue Friday, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute.

Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said the governor intends to discuss the vacancies on the various boards and commissions with Richards soon. The date for that meeting has not yet been set.

“We are in receipt of and reviewing Senator Richards’ letter. The governor continues to move forward with the filling of vacancies and positions of the many boards and commissions within the territory. We have been, and will continue to identifying individuals, review their resumes, and look to nominate and in some cases re-nominate those most qualified and willing to serve,” Greaux said in a written statement.

According to V.I. Code, if a vacancy occurs on a governmental board when a member’s term expires, the vacancy must be filled within 60 days. If the position is not filled within 60 days, and the vacancy causes the board to lose a quorum, all actions taken by the board are null and void.

Additionally, the law mandates that board vacancies be advertised publicly, allowing residents to submit nominations and recommendations to the governor.

It has been common practice for decades, and is allowed under the law, for board members with expired terms to continue to serve until they are replaced. Doing so allows the board to keep its quorum and continue to function.

“It’s my position that that has been abused,” Richards said.

In his research, Richards found that some board members still were serving after their terms expired more than 10 years ago.

He also found several boards missing representation from one district or the other.

For example, the V.I. Public Finance Authority board should have two members from each district from the private sector. Only St. Croix currently is represented on the board with two private sector members. The two vacancies for the St. Thomas-St. John District mean that the government’s representatives – the governor, the Finance commissioner and the director of the V.I. Office of Management and Budget – have the majority vote on the board.

“The point is that some action needs to be taken,” Richards said.

Some nominations sent to the Senate by deJongh during the last Legislative term never were acted on and will need to be resubmitted for the 29th Legislature to consider them, Richards said.

In his letter to the governor, Richards also reminded deJongh about a new law, enacted in August, that mandates that all members of the Board of Medical Examiners be nominated to the Legislature. The new law also mandates that three citizen members be nominated, “to the Legislature within 60 days after the effective date of this Act.”

The only nominations submitted this term have been Alicia Barnes for Department of Planning and Natural Resources commissioner and Elton Lewis for V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director, Richards said. The confirmation hearing for both nominees is scheduled for Feb. 24.

– Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-7882 ext. 311 or e-mail staff of Sen. Usie Richards complied a list of boards and commissions with vacancies and expired terms. The list includes:

– University of the Virgin Islands Board – All terms are current with no vacancies.

– V.I. Government Hospital & Health Facilities Corporation, St. Croix District Board – Wallace Phaire Sr.’s term expired in 2009.

– V.I. Government Hospital & Health Facilities Corporation, Schneider Regional Medical Center Board – Mulo Alwani’s term expired May 28.

– Government Employees Service Commission Health Insurance Board of Trustees – Yolanda Samuel Deterville’s term expired April 20. Clemmie Moses’ term expired in 2002.

– V.I. Port Authority Board – One vacancy.

– V.I. Civil Rights Commission – Three vacancies.

– V.I. Lottery Commission – Three vacancies.

– V.I. Historic Preservation Commission – Five vacancies.

– Government Employees Retirement System Board – Five members’ terms have expired: Vincent Liger, 2004; Leona Smith, 2004; Carver Farrow, 2006; Yvonne Bowsky, 2010; Marvin Pickering, 2010.

– Public Employees Relations Board – One vacancy. All members’ terms have expired: Aubry Lee, 2004; Hugo Dennis Jr., 2005; Omar Henry, 2005; Rodney Moorhead, 2008.

– V.I. Waste Management Authority – One vacancy. Three members’ terms have expired: Llewellyn Reed II, 2006; Winston Adams, 2007; Brion Morrisette, 2007.

– V.I. Public Services Commission – Two vacancies. Four members’ terms have expired: Donald Cole, 2009; Verne David, 2004; Sirri Hamad, 2009; M. Thomas Jackson, 2009.

– V.I. Water and Power Authority – Five members’ terms have expired: Juanita Young, 2010; Noel Loftus, 2010; Donald Francois, 2010; Brenda Benjamin, 2010; Cheryl Boynes Jackson, 2007.

– The West Indian Company Limited – Four members’ terms expire this month.

– V.I. Public Television System – Three members’ terms have expired: Raul Carrillo, 2010; Eugene Petersen, 2010; Caroline Polydore-Simon, 2009.

– V.I. Housing Finance Authority – One vacancy. Two members’ terms expired in 2006: Earl De Windt and Carmen Wesselhoft.

– V.I. Public Finance Authority – Two vacancies.

– V.I. Economic Development Authority – Jose Penn’s term expired in 2007.

– V.I. Banking Board – Four members’ terms have expired: Pablo O’Neal, 1996; Winston Bennett, 1997; Ernesto Gutierrez, 1997; Desmond Maynard, 1997.

– V.I. Parole Board – Four vacancies. Three members’ terms have expired: Chesley Roebuck, Samuel Garnett, and Dennis Howell.

– V.I. Board of Land Use Appeals – Two vacancies. Four members’ terms have expired: James Hindels, Fred Vialet, Jose Penn and Aloy Nielsen.

– V.I. Board of Tax Review – Two vacancies. Four members’ terms have expired: Ester Smith,
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