Dec. 24, 2004 The V.I. Carnival Committee is "willing and ready" to run the 2005 Carnival, but it all depends on the government, the committee's executive director Caswil Callendar said Friday.
The future of the committee has been left up in the air since Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg sponsored legislation this year that would place Carnival, the St. John Fourth of July Celebration and St. Croix's Festival under the purview of the Tourism Department.
If Donastorg's bill, the Carnival Accountability Act, were to become law, an Office of Carnival Promotion would be created within the Tourism Department, and its director would manage all carnival activities, effectively disbanding the Carnival Committee.
The bill came on the heels of the committee members' refusal to allow the Legislature to conduct a financial audit on the committee. The committee claimed it was a nonprofit entity and was not subject to an audit by any governmental agency. (See "Carnival Committee Says No to Senate Audit"). However, Territorial Court Judge Rhys Hodge recently ruled against the Carnival Committee in a lawsuit it brought against the V.I. government. Hodge stated the committee is subject to a government audit based on a law signed by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on July 15.
In a letter to Carnival Committee chairman Kenneth Blake Wednesday, Donastorg inquired whether there would be Carnival in 2005. If it were being canceled, he asked, was it because of the committee's failure to pay its taxes for the last six years?
"We don't know where he gets his information from," Callendar said Friday of the "rumors" mentioned in Donastorg's letter.
Callendar said what he had predicted is happening.
"We did tell Donastorg that this thing would blow up in his face," Callendar said. "And now it has. He's just trying to find ways to continue in his efforts at disrupting the Carnival Committee."
Callendar took offense to a part in Donastorg's letter telling Blake he should step down as chairman if they could not run Carnival next year.
"If you do not intend to participate in the organization of Carnival 2005, the right and honorable thing to do would be to publicly step down and to turn over the planning efforts to either another member of your committee or a new organization," Donastorg wrote. "No one man owns our Carnival celebration and no one man can stop the Carnival."
Callendar said Donastorg "has no say" on who should be leader of the Carnival Committee. Blake is not paid for his services to the committee.
"Paid employees have the right to withhold their services when necessary," Callendar said, "much less for those who are volunteering their services. If Donastorg really cared about the community, he would stop being a destructive force."
Carnival, which brings in about $65 million in revenues each year, is a much-anticipated event by many vendors and others in the community. Callendar said none of the committee members want to put an end to Carnival.
"The Carnival Committee is willing and ready to put on another massive production," Callendar said. "We just need the leaders of the community to assist us in doing what needs to be done."
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