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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024


Dec. 2, 2001 – Coming in a few hours ahead of the Saturday midnight deadline, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull approved legislation to create a multipurpose veterans center at the old Virgin Isle Hotel, vetoed Sen. Adelbert Bryan's Sustainable Economic Development Commission and chastised the senators for going on a reckless "pre-Christmas spending spree."
Turnbull also signed a bill appropriating $4.4 million to the Public Works Department for repair and maintenance of the territory's sewer and wastewater systems — but took issue with the $5.6 million in amendments senators had tacked onto it.
Approval of Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel's bill for the government to lease the onetime V.I. Hilton Hotel to a not-for-profit group for development as a vet center came as a surprise to some observers. The measure stirred controversy when it was learned that the senator had designated her husband, Gilbert Samuel, to manage Veterans Resources and Development Inc., an organization formed to operate the center. Pickard-Samuel said that since her husband would not be receiving a salary, it wasn't a conflict of interest; nonetheless, she subsequently announced that she had removed him from the position.
Pickard-Samuel and Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. organized a march by veterans on Government House to accost the governor about not signing the bill. The governor did not respond to the march. Saturday, he signed the bill without comment. It grants a 99-year lease to the organization and appropriates $300,000 from the interest earned on bond proceeds as a grant to the organization to develop the veterans center.
In vetoing the commission proposed by Bryan, Turnbull said the entity would duplicate a program of the Economic Development Authority and also infringed on executive branch powers.
In September, Bryan quit his dual posts as Senate vice president and chair of the Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee after his majority colleagues voted down his commission and a $650,000 appropriation to run it. On Nov. 8, his earlier resignations not having been accepted, he officially quit only the vice presidency and, in an odd turn of events, his colleagues had a change of heart and approved his commission. Turnbull was having none of it.
"It is highly irresponsible for members of the 24th Legislature to pass legislation for less than noble reasons, and then to privately lobby the governor to veto the very same legislation," the governor wrote in his letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd explaining his actions on the various bills. "A case in point is Bill No. 24-0190 [Bryan's bill]. If it were not the case that the people of the territory would suffer, I would be tempted to let some of these mischievous and politically motivated legislation [sic] become law without my signature and let the Legislature face the people's wrath."
However, the governor continued, he would "continue to travel the higher road, the one less traveled."
He signed a bill introduced by White to place a moratorium on the issuing of taxi medallions until the Senate votes to lift it. The moratorium exempts veterans, provided they have lived in the territory for five years before applying for a medallion, and their offspring, with the same residential requirement.
The governor line-item vetoed the senators' reprogramming of Community Development Block Grant funds, including a reduction to $100,000 from $220,000 for upgrading of the Frenchtown fishermen's facility.
Other amendments Turnbull vetoed would have expanded EDA benefits to insurance companies and physicians' corporations; he said such moves would increase the potential for further erosion of the territory's tax base.

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