April 15, 2004 — When Vancito E. Gumbs came before the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday, he did not realize he would be the center of a heated discussion.
Gumbs, who also was celebrating his birthday, found himself in the midst of a controversy over whether he is eligible to serve on the Hospitals and Health Facilities Corp. governing board for the St. Thomas-St. John district.
After much debate, the committee voted to hold his nomination.
With that action, Gumbs became the second person proposed by the governor for a seat on the the district board to have his nomination held in committee. Clement "Cain" Magras was the first.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in his letter of nomination said Gumbs would replace Beverly Chongasing, the board's immediate past president, whose term had expired.
However, the Legislature's assistant legal counsel, Sharlene Rogers, said Gumbs is "ineligible" to replace Chongasing, since he is a public sector employee and she was a private sector representative on the board.
Gumbs is a part-time instructor of criminal justice at the University of the Virgin Islands and thus, Rogers said, he is considered a public employee.
The board by law has seven members. Five of the seats currently are filled, two of them by government sector representatives.
Sen. Roosevelt David, the Rules Committee chair, asked Rogers whether Gumbs could be considered an "independent contractor." She replied that under the V.I. Code he is a public employee.
"This situation is unfortunate, because Gumbs is qualified for the position," Sen. Ronald Russell, a lawyer, said. "It really is the executive branch to blame for this quandary, because it did not accept the Legislature's recommendation to reject Brooks."
His reference was to Horace Brooks, the governor's confidential assistant. Turnbull renominated Brooks for a second term on the board last year, but the Legislature rejected the nomination last April 15.
By law, members of the board serve three-years but may continue to serve after their terms expire until their successors are qualified. The governor has not submitted another nominee to replace Brooks.
Sen. Carlton Dowe said on Thursday that the Senate rejected Brooks because he had been absent from a number of hospital board meetings and was not performing as he ought.
"The governor continued to circumvent the problem by allowing Mr. Brooks to continuously serve," Dowe said. He called on Turnbull to fax a letter to the Legislature "today" saying that Gumbs will replace Brooks.
"I'll wait to see if they will fax something down," Dowe said, referring to Government House.
Sen. Louis Hill said that "the hospital deserves to have a full board with competent people who are dedicated to service."
The committee voted unanimously to hold Gumbs' nomination and to send a letter stating the assistant legal counsel's opinion to Turnbull.
Waste Management Authority board nominees OK's
In its other action on Thursday, the Rules Committee approved two of the governor's nominees to serve on the board of the newly enacted Waste Management Authority: Deandre Atwell and Anthon Winston Adams.
Both were well received by the committee.
"It is very difficult to sit back and see a community dying for help and do nothing," Adams said of his reason for wanting to serve on the board.
Adams, a self-employed project manager and consultant, told the committee a study should be done to assess the territory's wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal sites and septic systems.
Atwell said she saw serving on the board as an "opportunity to give back something to the Virgin Islands, especially St. Croix."
Currently the president of Spectrum Group Inc., a construction firm on St. Croix, Atwell served as Public Works deputy commissioner in 1996-2000.
Atwell's nomination is for a full three-year term; Adams' is for an initial two-year term so that full terms eventually will be staggered.
On Feb. 6, Turnbull submitted to the Legislature his nominees for all four of the public seats on the board, along with his appointments of the three government representatives. His other private-sector nominees, yet to be taken up by the Senate, are St. Croix engineer Reginald George and St. John lawyer Alan D Smith.
By law, the Public Works commissioner gets one of the government seats; in addition to Commissioner Wayne Callwood, the governor appointed Keith Richards, his assistant for capital projects; and Gloria Canegata-Waterman, his assistant for St. Croix.
Hill, the prime sponsor and shepherd in the Senate of the Waste Management Authority legislation, said he was pleased with the governor's nominations of Adams and Atwell.
He told the nominees that they are "coming upon grave responsibility" in agreeing to serve on the new board "at a time where it's an emergency."
The Rules Committee unanimously approved the nominations of both Adams and Atwell. They go now to the full Senate for the confirmation vote.
All committee members were present: Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr., David, Dowe, Hill, David Jones and Russell.
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