ADMINISTRATION GETS TOUGH ON SENATE TESTIMONY

March 20, 2002 – Invoking a seven-month-old directive from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull that has largely been ignored, Attorney General Iver Stridiron told the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee Tuesday that he had advised executive branch officials not to appear before the committee as invited for a hearing on Wednesday.
In the Tuesday letter addressed to Sen. Emmett Hansen II, Stridiron wrote that, in accordance with Turnbull's Aug. 1, 2001, letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd "and the policy set forth therein," he had advised Karen Andrews, administration chief labor negotiator, and Kevin Rodriguez, Personnel Division acting director, that they "should not appear before your committee absent a directive from Governor Turnbull that they do so."
And, he said, the same will apply to other administration officials and other hearings.
Further, Stridiron stated, if subpoenas are issued to executive branch officers and employees to appear before legislative bodies, he will advise them to attend and state their name, title and department for the record, but offer no testimony.
The agenda for Wednesday's 10 a.m. hearing on St. Croix was to receive testimony on pension increases for government retirees, the status of collective bargaining negotiations with unions representing government employees, and the cross training of peace officers from various government agencies to help ease a personnel shortage in the Police Department. Listed on the Legislature's calendar as being invited to testify are Andrews and Personnel Division director Joanne Barry.
Stridiron also noted in the letter that he and Police Commissioner Franz Christian have been invited to appear at a 10 a.m. Friday meeting of Hansen's committee on St. Thomas and that he — Stridiron — has been invited to testify at a 10 a.m. meeting next Tuesday of the Labor and Veterans Affairs Committee and at a 6 p.m. meeting of the Youth and Human Services Committee the same day.
For Friday's Government Operations hearing on St. Thomas, the agenda calls for testimony from police officials on securing missing weapons, prosecuting anyone taking evidence from police custody, discipline of officers who fail to follow procedures, initiatives to stem gun-related crime, and funding. Invited to testify are Christian, Police Chief Novelle Francis, and Deputy Chiefs Angelo Hill and Theodore Carty.
That agenda further calls for testimony from Stridiron and V.I. Housing Authority Police Chief Fitzroy Williams on Project Exile, the new Gun Control Act, hiring of more assistant attorneys general, Housing Authority initiatives to assist the Police Department, and placing Corrections Bureau and Housing Authority officers on a par in pay and responsibility with the Police Department.
Turnbull's directive last year was in response to the routine practice of Senate committee chairs of "inviting" administration officials to appear at hearings that often resulted in their being at the Legislature all day, late into the night and sometimes both, waiting to be called to testify. Intimating that his top officials had more pressing things to do, the governor said that henceforth they would attend such hearings only if arrangements were cleared in advance through the Office of the Governor.
Stridiron in his Tuesday letter told Hansen that the policy is to be taken seriously. "The governor wishes to cooperate with the Legislature," he wrote. "This is a matter of policy and protocol which is observed in all other jurisdictions apparently except the Virgin Islands."
The governor "authorized me to reiterate his policy," Stridiron wrote. "He urges that you observe the policy."

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