April 28, 2003 – The five-member Senate Minority Caucus weighed in once again Monday with another call for a Committee of the Whole meeting to assess the financial status of the V.I. government.
Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Carlton Dowe, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Raymond "Usie" Richards and Celestino A. White Sr. petitioned Senate President David Jones to call the meeting for May 8 "to discuss, review and determine adequate policies for addressing the now publicly disclosed 'financial crisis.'"
They further asked that the following administration officials be present at said session: the Finance commissioner, Office of Management and Budget director, Tax Assessor, Internal Revenue Bureau director, V.I. Lottery executive director, Port Authority executive director, Public Works commissioner, and Public Finance Authority director of finance and administration; as well as government bond counsels.
The "whereas" portions of the petition note that the Senate voted on Jan. 13 to summon the administration's financial officers to discuss the territory's fiscal status; that the majority changed the date to Jan. 21 and then, at the governor's request, changed it to Jan. 28; and that the meeting was allotted only two hours, followed immediately by a Finance Committee hearing which addressed the same subjects.
And, it states, the Minority Caucus on April 2 petitioned the Senate to convene a Committee of the Whole meeting on April 14 for the same purpose and that the only response received was a letter from Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who as chair of the Senate Finance Committee offered to convene a meeting of that panel for that purpose on May 20.
The accompanying letter to Senate President David Jones states that the Public Finance Authority's March 27 authorization of a $7.5 million loan "to cover the government's operational cost" and meetings called by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull last week "underscore the importance of convening a Committee of the Whole meeting" to address the matter.
While in Committee of the Whole on St. Thomas, where the May 8 meeting is requested to be, the Senate could choose to move directly into full session to vote on legislation introduced at the committee meeting.
The April 2 request for an April 14 meeting charged that the January actions of the Democratic Majority and subsequent events made it "clear that there exists a conspiracy to hide, cover up or muffle the government's 'financial crisis.'" It cited not only the PFA loan authorization but also a "secret plan to borrow another $25 million."
It also conveyed the "expectation" that lawmakers would be provided copies of all PFA contracts, information of all bond proceeds, and reports on the status of all capital projects, including those financed with GARVEE bonds and federal highway funds.
Monday's petition states that financial information requested of the administration from that Jan. 28 meeting and from another Senate session on Feb. 12 "has still not been forwarded in its entirety." And it notes that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull last Thursday held a meeting with senators and the presiding judge of Territorial Court "to supposedly inform those in attendance of the current fiscal crisis." The 12 senators at that meeting included all five Minority Caucus members.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.